Photo essay: Mohsen Namjoo's first U.S. concert

by Jahanshah Javid

It was a special night. Mohsen Namjoo delivered a stunning performance in his first U.S. concert in San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Saturday. And fine indeed it was. It was divinely human. Full of unfamiliar sounds in familiar, heartfelt, real-life settings. It was sound and music and history and religion and politics and love and humanity all rolled into one.

Namjoo gleefully shattered every convention in Iranian music and fearlessly sang words of rage and frustration to describe the collective Iranian condition. In one song, I think it's called "Dah-e Shast" (the 1980s), Namjoo utteres: "Basee ranj bordeem dar een saal 30, keh ranj bordeh baasheem faghat! Mersi, Mersi, Mersi..." (We suffered in these past 30 years -- a reference to Ferdowsi "suffering" 30 years to complete his epic "Shahnameh" -- only for the purpose of suffering. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!..." [video]

Namjoo is as unique and extraordinary as they come. Don't miss a chance to see this musical force live on stage (U.S. tour dates). It's an unforgettable experience -- like nothing you've ever heard before. His humility, his audacity, his honesty, his sarcasm, his pain, his sweetness... will take over your heart.


A big "khasteh nabaashid" to Lalé Welsh and Amir Salamat of Beyond Persia for yet another history-making event. Dastetoon dard nakoneh! [see review by Nazy Kaviani]


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Reply to Seriously: Wake up!

by bahmani on

Not to belabor the point, but in fact the brilliance of Namjo is not about music. He is one of the most prolific social critics of our day. His message is the words, that are cleverly masked by some music, which is interesting, if not what you are used to or expecting to dance to. The whole point and the grand experiment of Beyond Persia is exactly that, to get you and others to think about the future, and with Namjoo, a bit of the present. But definitely not to continue looking to the past as our only source of greatness, like you seem to be blessedly obsessed to continually do. Join us and let's get over our sullied past, how cool we "used to be" and start planning for how much cooler we will become, or for once, how cool we actually are! Sure, looking forward is risky, and scary, and hard to do, but at least we can see where we are going. As it stands now, fear of the future has us admiring our big Persian ass in the mirror, as we march right off the cliff.

Azadeh Azmoudeh


by Azadeh Azmoudeh on

Are you serious? Thousands of years of heritage? What does that have to do with anything, including art, music, and anything for that matter?What do we have now? You better wake up and taste the coffee. So you believe we need to be stagnant in our culture, like we did with the religion? Nothing has changed? For your information we are living in the 21 centurey, with cyber living, and other progress in the world. What Namjoo did (wondering if you have any idea about music) was integrating the music of west into our traditional music. Introducing our music in a way that world can relate to, what's wrong with that? Do you realize that in order to bring the world to unity wesometimes need to feel as one, or do you want to stick to your old culture and having the rediculous pride in being Persian? Where is Persia? Where is Persian Golf? Get yourself free of these boundaries and limitation. World is moving toward unity, Europe has become one, why can't we?



To Seriously

by Anonymous77 (not verified) on

Khak bar saret khodet, if that's what you want. Please, stop including me in your rants. Thanks. I still have lots to do above ground.
Same goes for others who keep including all sorts of people in their own wallowing.


Namjoo is a good con

by Seriuosly (not verified) on

Namjoo is the Khatami of Persian music.

I havent read one single comment or article explaining why he is a genius. The reason is that no one knows why.

Wake up. The fact that you dont understand him does not make him a genius, it makes you an idiot for not knowing crap about Persian Sonnati music. You have set the bar so low that when any con artist comes along you crown him as a revolutionary and a genius. The guy is a good actor, thats all he is. You have all been conned by the "Iceman" as Bahmani refers to him.

We are badbakht, that after thousands of years of music and tradition, this is the person we are looking to show us the way in Persian music. khah bar sare ma , we dont deserve our Persian culture and heritage. We want to go "Beyond Persia" because being just Persian with thousands of years of history and culture is not enough. And Namjoo is the freakin answer to our low cultural self esteem and ignorance to our own art and heritage.

khak bar sare ma! we deserve this!


Bahmani, thank you for the additional info

by Anonymous77 (not verified) on

makes a bit more sense now. I'll have a look and listen to the other work. It does seem to grow on one.

Btw I doubt it's just Iranians who are pressed for instant gratification and impatient.
It's the old current Zeitgeist thing with not enough Zeit (time)


Reply to: Anonymous77

by bahmani on

He is cryptic, and difficult to understand unless you are finely tuned into the dissident message. Don't feel bad, I have been listening to his music now for 6 months, and I still don't understand a lot of it. My favorite song is "Aghayedeh Nokanti" which I can sort of understand most of, but I have yet to ask MN to confirm. As far as I can tell he is a puzzle that you have to figure out patiently. Try this video that we just posted, it is about living conditions growing up in Iran during the 80's (1360's decade) or what he calls "Dah-e-Shast". See if you get the very clever Ferdowsi reference of "basi ranj bordim in sal see..."

Iranians appear to be way too impatient to enjoy the process of discovery and decoding that MN requires. We want everything now. Perfect words, perfect music, perfect concert, cheap tickets, perfect audience, perfect sound system, perfect video, perfect this and that. Here's to finally getting everything that we deserve, one day!


Reply to Shabnam:

by bahmani on

(apologies to those who I promised would be my last post, but I keep getting questions so...) Hi Shabnam Khanoom, Thanks for your passionate comments and great feedback. I WISH we could have announced and introduced and coached and done all the things that you mentioned. However we respect the wishes of the artists we showcase, and if they say they prefer not to be gushed over, we respect that. Ask him, and he will tell you that the intro we gave was exactly as khaki and simple as he wanted. As much as it ought to be someone's job, it is not anyone's job to train audiences, or to push an artist on the audience. The Free Iranian audience needs to grow into optimal behavior, something along the lines of what you are clearly hoping for. Thanks for thinking about this.


I don't understand it

by Anonymous77 (not verified) on

Just listened to "Zolf bar badd"

The reason I don't understand it is probably a reflection of eclectic style or none. It sounds like some form of George Brassin mixed up with Shajarian.

Obviously he can sing, what is a bit confusing is his style, but that may actually be his style. It is found very much these days amongst Iranians, because of a susceptability of as a result of flexibility of 'sponging' up lots of different styles to find an individual one.

Still, I am drawn to the 'ambience'

Good luck to him



by Naderrrrrrr (not verified) on

I didn't know much about him till I heard all the talk about his music and ever since I can't stop listing to him on line and looking every where to by his CDs. His music so fresh, so simple, so modern and at the same time traditional. He is one of the original artists who has already made a place for himself in history of Iranian music. It would be great to be in the same room with him to get some of that good energy. I wish he could put a concert in Seattle as well. All the power to him.


Mr Bahmani

by Shabnam (not verified) on

It seems you are one of the organizers so I can be direct with you . I think it is exactly the responsibility of the organizers to let the audience know what the expected behavior is in such solo performance. You have the microphone and the chance to briefly but effectively educate the audience, not me, if I did I would. You can do this during the introduction of the artist before the concert begins explaining how this would be respectful to the artist, his art and performance/design and all attending the performance without acting offensive to anybody, I am sure Namjoo would certainly appreciate this as well. This should be done out of respect for the artist, everyone in the audience and our culture and community. I for one were totally ashamed that our community here in Northern California was represented to Namjoo in such manner, if not done correctly, I am sure things will not be better down in southern California either. Ask Namjoo himself, if he has observed a behavior like this in any of his solo performances in Iran in the past, I seriously doubt the answer will be yes. I am sure the tehrangelese behavior and myth has been confirmed in his mind after seeing this behavior the other night in SF. Some artists are more forward and make more direct connection with their audiences and sometimes even correct their behavior or make direct remarks if they see an offending misbehavior from their audience but Namjoo as I could tell was way more shy to do such things, so the responsibility rests on your shoulders as organizers.

Sadly, I have to say after this experience I would be very cautious attending another classical solo performance done in California in such large venue that‘s been heavily advertised.


A question

by Hajminator on

I don't wanna be seen as the nokhodeh in ash: I don't live in San Fransisco and haven't been to Mr. Namjoo concert yet but there is something that I don't catch well: What's the matter with a ticket price of 75$ for Namjoo's spectacle? 75$ represents narrowly 50€ and it is the price of 5 cinema tickets in Paris. So isn't it worth to see Mr. Namjoo concert than 5 films in a cinema?
For me the answer is of course not, I pay around 200€ to 300€ to see a spectacle in opera and I'm ready to pay the same to go to Mr. Namjoo concert. I'm not saying that I'm rich but somethings in our life are without price like these rare occasions.


Loved the Show!

by MallyJack_Secrets on

To see Namjoo in my lifetime, was worth every penny it cost to bring him from Austria (?), and I'm guessing to put him up for the few months that he is in the US, to sponsor his visa, and pay him to perform at the Palace, is worth $45 as a student, $75 general and $125 for the VIP treatment which as a fan was awesome. Since I don't attend many Iranian events because they are usually painful, I easily had the culture-cash saved up to go for the VIP. I got to speak at length with Namjoo and his lovely girlfriend Torang (inspiration for the song?) and learned that the weird intro film was actually made by her and not by Beyond Persia. I even took a picture with my new hero, and had a great Persian meal! It was a perfect evening!

BP also put on the 2007 Kiosk-Abjeez concert at the Great American Music Hall, which was an equally unforgettable event. Amir and Lale are gems, and know how to do this in the best way possible. If they are putting up their own money (and they are not rich!) to give us these opportunities, the least we can do is show our appreciation by doing our part vis a vis the ticket.


Getting personal...

by Amir-ofs-ki on

My kids don't know much about Miley Cyrus. Sorry, it sounds as if you know more about her than they do. As for watching movies, yes we do go matinee, eat at home before going to a movie. Total cost for us is less then $40. I guess we could be called cheap in your view.

I could be wrong but I get a feeling that living in SF, is like living in Shem-run. You are up there, high and mighty. You are not in touch with how things are where other people live.

As far as other Iranian (and non-Iranian) performers and money I spend to see them. Well, I don't. This will the first such event I am going to in many years.

I am sure BP folks spent lots of time to plan and get Namjoo here. To those in BP: Dastetoon dard nakoneh va khasteh nabasheed.

I thought placing views here (a huge mistake) will give BP chance to read how those not living in SF area feel and think about this concert. Maybe future events planners could use suggestions (and criticisms) made here.


How about concert in the park??

by I admire Namjoo (not verified) on

Mr. Bahmani: First of all, I sense a change of attitude in you. Weren't you the one that did not appreciate offensive comments and now you respond in such manner?___
Anyway I had a couple of comments:
1)Namjoo's talents and music and lyrics are a result of living in Iran. The ambiance and environment has led many artists and musicians to flourish as such.
2)you can visit palace of fine art rental website and see for yourself how much it actually costs!!
3)Why not have concert in the park (remember simon and garfunkel in NYC central park)
That was free and a lot of people appreciated it and enjoyed it and hey they even got bigger after that.
4) A comment says: Let's promote our culture
I have to ask: For whom are we promoting?
Yes we should promote our culture, Let's promote it to Non Iranians.
5) I personally don't know the people at Beyond persia, yet I hope that they are sincere and genuine about their mission.

with regards,


Reply to: Amirofski and Thinking out loud

by bahmani on

Thinking is OK, but speaking out loud or posting a subtle hint at something ridiculous is where I kind of have a bit of a clarification and perspective problem with you and your kind.

Sorry in advance to everyone for all the defensive postings, but frankly, I cannot tolerate LIES about a project that we have worked so hard on for so long, to be even in the slightest categorized so incorrectly, unfairly. This is my last one, I promise.

Let's look at your personal (and family values) preferences:

Would you prefer to see Namjoo or Miley Cyrus?

Just in case, please don't answer, I hope the answer is clear, but let's assume of course you prefer Namjoo. So, in case you forgot or didn't know, you could have also gone to see MC in concert for $480 a seat (over a $1,000 for anything within 200 seats of the stage). How about the Rolling Stones? Are they comparable to Namjoo? If so, you would have paid $200 for another back seat stadium ticket. What about Billy Joel? The Piano Man? Come on, isn't he just the same as Namjoo? That would have cost $110. OK, now I know you love the Eagles, and true it's been almost 30 years that they sang "Hotel California" that you and all Iranians love so much, but jooneh man, digeh the Eagles have got to be exactly as important as Namjoo? To your kids and family? The Eagles would have set you back $116. Again in a plastic, beer smelling arena seat. Also, no unlimited access and meet and greet with Glen Frey, no excellent Persian food, and you would have had to sit on hold for 12 hours to win a meet and greet from Radio Disney.

If you want to save money on your culture and support an Iranian artist at a Costco bargain, maybe next time, you should just go see Batman again. I think one of the animators of the 100 members of the special effects team was a half-Iranian, and if you hurry, the before noon matinee is like 8 bucks. With gas you'll be in and out for under $100, better get $200 cash from the ATM in case the kids want popcorn.


Reply to: Namjoo Fan & Student

by bahmani on

Rest assured the "These Beyond Persia People" are sincere. The insulting suggestion that BP is "real rip offs" is simply rude. Bi Tamadon, if you weren't Iranian and didn't know any better.

The seeming promotion of Beyond Persia as an organization that is advertising it's name on the stage and in the programs and in the paid for banner ads on this website and others, as much as you might think, is not actually for you. It is to identify us as an organization that supports Iranian artists. We want to help. So we need to get the word out.

If we were in it for the money we'd bring Kamran and Hooman from Las Vegas and shove it down your throat until you choked. Actually now that I think about it...

Clearly you don't care when you insult people. But our reputation and track record is clear. We have never ripped anyone off. I don't expect you to trust us. Especially if you do not know us. But I do expect you do your homework and research, and find out the truth, before you make false accusations. PLEASE DO NOT LIE!


Shabnam: on Audience behavior

by bahmani on

Great observations and good suggestions, thanks very much for the input. It is precisely through concerts like these, and comments like yours that we can hopefully educate the audience on what will end up being appropriate Iranian audience behavior that respects the artist. Although I don't think it is our place to suggest a behavior via an announcement, that is your duty which you have exercised excellently. I personally feel that we need much more public expression of support for our artists.

The initial idea behind bringing MN to the US started as a small intimate mini concert, as you suggested. However, very soon after gauging the interest, we realized that there were many more fans than we thought spread across the US, who demanded a tour, which through just the travel expenses to send him to each city alone, dictated larger venues to cover the travel expenses involved in simply getting him to each city screaming for him.


Namjoo, Doosted dareem

by KayvanAli on

For the past year, our house, my car, our conversations and our thoughts have been filled with Namjoo's music. I even changed my phone's ring-tone to a home-made version of NoBahari...
When I went back to Tehran for a visit, I ended up buying 20 copies of the released Toranj album as my main soghati back to our friends in the US.
I think it's safe to say I'm a NamjooHead, ground-up.
So is my 5 year old daughter, my wife, my 12 year old niece, my 60 year old mother, my sister and my uncle!
When we heard he would be performing in SF, we were all truly ecstatic, but concerned: "Will his live performance match the intensity of the recorded songs? Will the audience consist of NamjooHeads or curious country-men? Will the live production sound quality ruin his work? Will he choke? Will he sing all the songs we love? Even the controversial ones? Will BP let the artist shine or will they make this a marketing event for BP?"

I'm here to report that Mohsen Namjoo took it over the top. He outperformed his recorded songs, he first weaved the walls and then paved a tall and blue roof of sound around us and above us for 2 hours; he said very little, he sang just right, he went way high and went low, very low, he was khaaki, he was very humble, he was history, he was serious, he was satirical, he was deep sorrow, he was laughter, he was awesome.

Yes, I was one of those who couldn't keep quiet throughout the performance, and yes, I know it was wrong to clap and shout while he was singing, but I personally couldn't control myself. Sorry, Mohsen khaan!

I think his performance was probably the best solo performance I've ever seen. This, his first US concert.

I thought BP did a great job of leaving the spot-light solely on the artist, letting him shine on through out the night.

I stepped outside, and I wanted to make sure others shared my sentiment. As if I'd seen this 'creature' and wanted to make sure others saw him too :->
Did you see that? Did you hear that? What did you think?
Unanimously, everyone I talked to were high and dry from what they had heard. Everyone had these grins of satisfaction on their faces...

I wanted to speak a few words to Namjoo, tell him 'we went to the same university' and that 'we have friends in common', how his music speaks DIRECTLY to my generation, ask him about a couple of his songs, their roots, ask him how he felt about the concert, what comes next for him, etc...but after seeing how he was being hounded by our friends for an emza, for a picture, for a chat, for hamzaboonee, I decided to leave him alone... for now :->

Some friends complained about the overall sound quality, others about the initial video. A lot of my fellow Namjooheads didn't attend the show because they found the ticket price too high. That's fine...Maybe when Namjoo comes to our town again as a superstar and does a free concert in the GG park, we'll all go there together, I think he needs the open space to build a taller tower of song anyway.

Namjoo, all I can say is: Merci, Mersi, Merci



Thinking aloud

by Amir-ofs-ki on

Four of us at $125 each, that is $500 (half of a round trip air fare to IRAN
from east coast, during off season). But two are kids in school, who have
been hearing Namjoo at home and in the car with uss, lets get them student
tickets at $45 each. Opps, not good. They have to seat all the way in the back.

So, we compromised and got four $75 tickets ($300 plus fees).



Namjoo was great, the audience was not

by Shabnam (not verified) on

Being his first US concert, I thought he did a good job. Unfortunately, many in the audience had mistaken this solo performance with a Ebi or Mansour concert. You do not clap or cheer pointlessly in the middle of a session, you don’t scream or chant whenever you want on whatever your drunken mind feels like, you should respect others and specially the artist‘s performance and design. Every change of voice, every silence, even between the sessions has a meaning and the artist has designed and thought hard to create it. It was obvious that many have not attended a solo performance like this before and were not at all aware of the etiquette involved in such settings. The organizers also failed to announce and emphasize that this is a solo performance and not a rock/pop concert, so you need to keep quiet and listen. Namjoo himself seemed getting annoyed at this toward the end an made an unobvious remark (which of course most missed and didn‘t even understand what he meant). Even though it is not a pure classical solo but it’s not much dissimilar. Even in much lower level concerts in iran I had not seen such distasteful and ignorant behavior from so many in the audience. I hope the organizers take note and fill the audience in at the beginning of the performance in the next concerts. Also for such solo performances a smaller setting with fewer attendees would be optimal and usually how it is done.


Anonymous 1.1

by ladan Khalili (not verified) on

You are putting words in my mouth. I did not call Iran Kessafat. I said I was glad this man was pulled away from the kessafat currently in Iran. (thank God for text).

Goegrpaphy doesn't make a home. The people do. Self respect comes from being able to identify for one's self what is right and what is wrong. Self Respect is speaking out against injustice without worrying how it sounds.

You are being deliberatley obtuse. Maybe you are not my people either.


Mrs. Khalili

by Anonymous1.1 (not verified) on

We can not refer to our mother land as Kessafat, though it is ruled by cockroachs now. Iran represents the culture, the art and the collective best you talk about as it is the birthplace of these parts of our civilization... It is a kind self-respect to not undermine our identity and I am really shocked when iranians like me do not distinguish between our country (which will always remain our home) and these b... you talk about.


Pacifica: Why so bitter

by bahmani on

Thanks for your support, sorry for the testiness. This was the first concert of a tour that we have been working on for the past 6 months (just his visa took 3 months). The opening film was not ours, and the switchover from film to background image took the 10 secs because we were not actually controlling it. The POFA requires union workers who are the only ones allowed to run the equipment. So we were powerless to avoid the 10 sec delay that bothered you. But I apologize for it. I was less than polite to the union worker! Trust me if I was the operator, it would have worked perfectly. As surprising as it may seem to you, I actually know how to use a projector! Thanks again.



by yek_irani_az_san_joseye_boring (not verified) on

hats off to ISLAMIC REPUBLIC .... had it not created the flourishing environment for Namjoo, we wouldn't have him to create his masterpieces for us!


why so bitter mr.

by pacifica (not verified) on

why so bitter mr. Bahamani??? why taking it so personal??? were you happen to be mr. ApAratchi by any chance???
take a deep breath and absorb my soft criticism amongst all the appreciation i had for BP. i was not complaining i was just sharing my thoughts because i thought BP and/or its marketing director thrives for improvement... you don't care what others think, fine, i won't give it to you again but please don't insult me, or any other Irani for that matter, not knowing where i am coming from...
by the way, do you think it was an okay thing for people to sit in the dark even for 1 sec?

good luck with your future endeavors...


It is sad

by Anonymousely (not verified) on

It is sad that after all this work that BP did e.g. getting Mr. Namjoos Visa, finding him housing paying for his stay and travel during his tour treating him like a great artist that he is, to get this level of venom is shameful. Why don't you all know-it-alls ask Mr. Nmajoo, how he has been treated?. I did. I had a chance to briefly talk to him and he very happy with his experience. So sit back, enjoy the show which only a few months ago seemed improbable. Some of you feel that you paid a few extra dollars? well, nobody forced you to go to the show. Please stop bitching. I wish some of you had a remote idea what it really takes to put a project like this together.



by ladan Khalili (not verified) on

I mean that Iran is now crawling with the filthy creepy shameful dogma that bastardizes culture and art and replaces it with fear and hate and censorship forcing a man like this to stay silent when he has so much to say and teach.

I was born there yes, but that is not my home. My home is in our culture, our art and our collective best. That is just a filthy place overrun by rats who keep people down and small minded.

When Iran is once again a free society that gibes these people wings, then it will once again be my home.


Ladan khanoom

by Anonymous1.1 (not verified) on

What do you mean when you refer to Iran as 'Kessafate Iran'? You were born their no?


unbelievable night

by farzaneh on

unbelievable concert, unbelievable singer, unbelievable night.

thanks to everyone who made it happen.

every single penny nooshe jaanetoon.

please do this more often.




Heecham Haghe kessi neest ke

by ladan Khalili (not verified) on

Heecham Haghe kessi neest ke betooneh baad as concert emza begireh! Kodoom musiciane Emirkai een kar ra mikoneh?

Shoma hameh tavagho e alaki darid va kheili bad been hastin. Heech kass ham az Aghayeh Namjoo soo estefadeh nakardeh. Eena Adam hayeh besyar ba farhang va ba orzeh hastand ke raftand yek adamiro az kessafate Iran keshidan biroon va kolli komakesh kardan ke ba eftekhar betooneh bere jolo. Een Jayeh tashakor e shomast? Midoonin een kar cheghadr kharj mibareh?

Kheili adamha zoor zadan ke een kar ra bekonand amma natoonestan. Sad rahmat be BP ke een kar ra ghashang va tond anjam dadant. Ageh shoma fekr mikonid gheymate bility ziadeh, nemiamadin.

Tamoom shod or raft. Aberoomoonoh hefz konim. Een harfha zeshete.