Mohsen Namjoo's “Zolf Bar Baad” is more than a song. It's a breakthrough. I'm probably wrong, or exaggerating its importance, but one day we may look back at this song as an inflection point in Persian music.
I found it in the pages of Iranian.com (via tehranavenue.com). The editor called him a genius and the song nothing short of “phenomenal”. I downloaded it, heard it, and haven't stopped playing it over and over again ever since. (Of course, it is a matter of taste, above all, and you may not like the song at all.)
For starters it benefits from one Hafez's masterpiece poems; but one that is exceedingly difficult to vocalize in song (try vocalizing it at home. You'll see.). For another, the song is stunningly original in style and intonations. In effect, it frees the poem from the cages of dusty books and classical music and brings it into the 21st century in style and renewed passion. It's impact is truly jarring and makes one wonder about future possibilities.
At one point, I found myself asking, “who am I listening to here: Taaj-e Isfahani, Farhad, or Bob Dylan?”. The answer is all and none of them.
Persian music has always been closely tied to Persian literature. And, for good reason. Persian literature is unparalleled in the world for its lyrical beauty and mystical wisdom, often nearing the limits of balance between form and meaning. It is also delicious on the tongue and profound for the mind. It is one of highest achievements of human expression.
What happened in the last century was that, while traditional music flourished somewhat sticking to literature, new talents looked for new sounds and words from the West. There emerged two musical traditions: one which may be best represented by “golhaa”, or the traditional music supported by the ministries of Arts & Culture, and another more modern music which grew from the grass roots and was called “pop”.
The former employed masters of classical Persian music, Persian instruments, and, of course, classical literature. The former, featured young musicians and singers, western instruments, and free-form Persian poetry, or Western style lyrics.
Good examples of the former would be the works of Banan, Marzeeyeh, Parisa, Shajarian, etc. Examples of the latter, or more modern, would be the two camps of pop-like Googoosh, Ebi, Sattar and the more serious Farhad, Foroughi, Dariush.
I grew up listening to Western Rock & Roll, but could not ignore the good works of the more modern Persian music either. There were some great lyrics written for them reflecting the times. As for Golhaa and classical Persian music, it never did much fro me. Maybe it was because of my age, but I think it had more to do with the fact that it sounded stale and bookish to me.
Much has happened since the 1979 revolution. Pop music, I'm sorry to say, decayed and went totally “L.A.”. Golhaa gave way to the mystical music of Nazeri, Eftekhari, et. al.. I remember the excitement when Nazeri released two albums in the early 80's: Gole-e Sad Barg and Yadegaar-e Doost. That was a new beginning then.
Now, I see a glimmer that the two are emerging to form a solid new style: in-tune with the times and rooted deeply in the rich Persian literature. Let's hope.