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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Does it occur to anyone that

by Anonymousirooni (not verified) on

Does it occur to anyone that this guy has hardly any experience in showmanship (he wasn't allowed to have concerts in Iran, and only 2 or 3 in Europe). I am a sound engineer and work with artists all the time. Most artists make their own calls on how the sound should be and how they should be presented. Most of them have huge egos, allthough this guy doesn't sound like he has one. But I can tell you it's very rarely the producer's fault.
It's the producer's fault if the event doesn't get promoted well, or if it's badly funded. But this show sold out, and everyone looked real happy when I left around 11. I thought it was a good concert. We Iranians bitch and complain too much.



by bahmani on

I am so glad that the real message of Namjoo's words and art is primarily being discussed here. I think he is the most significant light in the current primarily dark shade of free Iranian art.

However to specifically answer the truth to the (expected as usual) negative comments;

Pacifica: Actually I think it did you good to sit in the dark for a while. Was it more than 10 seconds? Think of it as a metaphor of your reality. The truth of the matter was that the Aparatchi (good one!) was a last minute inexperienced replacement union employee, we were assigned. Rack it up under the respect Iranians typically get whenever we try to hold our heads up in the mainstream. That's your reality. Now contemplate it instead of always assuming the fault was with one of your own people.

Red Wine: Yes, in fact Namjoo is not Sonnatti or Classical (is there even anything you would honestly attempt to label as Classical really? Isn't classical really sonnatti?), and yes, he is trying to create a new politically tinged social commentary style on "the Situation". I would suggest it is most akin to Punk. Obviously though, as you prove, far less popular.

Arash Partow: Actually he is entirely underrated. Possibly you are making the mistake of comparing him to what you might also consider to be normal Iranian music, possibly the disease-ridden 6/8 variety. As is evident he's not normal. Vulgargrad uses traditional Russian music and is very clear on their commentary. Namjoo uses some traditional techniques but is far more irreverent towards the standards of Persian music. His lyrics are also far more cryptic and hard to peg. Mixed with entendre, emphasis, emotion and even comedy. But it is possible for you to hear what he is saying, rather than rating it for dancability. Give it another chance, and listen to the words and not the music as much. That's just camouflage for the real message. He's on iTunes.

Mirzakhan, SF Girl and Kimia: Glad there's 3 of you, that makes the 3-way split less! On the cost and ticket prices, We can do it a couple of ways, we can either have the 3 of you split the entire cost to fly him here, book the palace (one of the most sought after venues in the US), so it becomes a free concert sponsored by you! Which would be awesome! Or we can figure out how much the 3 of you need to pony up to make up the difference so that the average ticket cost goes down to something like...Hmmm? Exactly how much is Namjoo worth discounting?. Sound good? Please send us your CC so we can literally ring up your khedmat to your mamlekat!

Morvarid 1: Agar hatta faghat 1/4 jamiat (900 nafar oomadeh boodand) emzaeh CD mikhastand, 4 sa-at tool mikeshid CD haro emza bekoneh. Beliteh concert barayeh kharjeh ovordaneh Namjoo beh Amrika bood, va makharejeh roozanashoon (masalan ghaza!), dast mozdeh Namjoo (moft keh kar nemikoneh!), va kharjeh concert (billesho mitoonam behet neshoon bedam). In makharejha kheyli vaghei-and. Beedar sho, chon dari khab mibini keh hameh cheez to donya yeh hoyi barat moft shodeh! Mersi keh oomadi, vali geleheh eshtebah nagir.

Making assumptions about costs, pricing, and ulterior motives when you don't have the slightest clue as to the actual costs and details behind an undertaking, is dangerous folly and indicative of just how mistrustful, and wounded and damaged we are as a people. And at some level possibly libelous. Why can't you guys just ask us these questions before posting what ends up just being wrong anyway? I mean it would be so much more easier than always assuming a fellow Iroony is out to screw you.

Because not all Iranians are bad, and I am 1000% positive that there are at least a few Iranians in it 1000% for the pure pleasure of service.


100000 shaghayeshe normandie baraye ou

by morvarid1 (not verified) on

merci az aksaye kheili ghashangetoun va merci az comment mirzakhan
BP az sedaghate mohsen namjoo estefadeh kardeh .. hagh har kassi ke be in concert miyad ine ke betoune namjoo ro bebine, baraye emza Cd, chera bayad 50$ ezafeh bedeh?? shayad kessi nakhad sham bokhore..
moteassefaneh namjoo va amsale ou majbour hastan ke ba in adama kar konan va gar na khode namjoo besiar adame khaki hast va motmaenan mikhast ke taraftarasho baad az concert bebineh , mesle concertash dar europe ke kheili arzountar boud va hame ham tounestan ke namjoo ro dar akhar bebinand ...
gheyr az in ma hame asheghe seda va music namjoo hastim .. 100000 shaghayeshe normandie baraye ou


bitter sweet

by pacifica (not verified) on

Namjoo was here in a live concert,,, wow!!! listening to his revolutionary music and supporting him in any shape and form was one thing that i personally have been wishing to do ever since i heard his music... his raw, pure, unpretentious and non-commercialized performance exceeded my every expectations.
i also wanted to thank BP for making the effort to bring Namjoo... i am sure it has been a painstaking process from the get go all the way to the very last second and everyone is aware of this fact... you guys truly think "outside of the box"...
having that said, allow me to share one constructive criticism with you. i am no concert organizer but i could tell the program had minimal rehearsal exposure, if that. as a friend of mine said it "they re-defined the term minimalistic"...
the audio, video, introducing the artist, and on and on were all primitive and lacking...
i don't mind paying $125.00 to listen to someone dear to heart but i do mind sitting in the dark as if the "ApAratchi" is falling asleep not knowing his old tape is broken... no apology after wards... nada!!!
BP has thrown enough concerts to know and do better than this....
but nonetheless, thank you!!!

bajenaghe naghi

jj jan

by bajenaghe naghi on

thank you for the great pictures. I bet you broke you back and neck trying to get some of these pictures! dastet dard nakoneh.


To Arash and all critics!

by choghok on

It is good that you have different opinions about his music. I do not like all his music myself.

But calling him not unique is well a false aqusation. There is no other artist doing the same thing as he does. Does not matter if all the 200 million russian sing theif song and namjoo's style is a copy of them as you say.

The matter of fact is that he is the only Persian-speaking doing that and that makes him unique.

P.S No matter how much I would get out I would not go to a Russian thief song concert and so would not any people I know.

/Bidar bash ke ma bekhabim


Hope to see him perform in Holland soon.

by پیام on

btw Jahanshah, I think the time has come for you to attend a photography course :). It is a missed opportunity to be present at such an event as a journalist and not be able to shoot clear pictures.

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

LooL ... They are fighting for money and bla bla  ... we should just talk about music,nothing else ...

I understood his type of the music is ' az har dari,feshari ' .

Sorry guys.


Mr. Mirzakhan

by Ey-baba (not verified) on

Dear Mirzakhan,

I am glad you were able to attend the concert by Mr Namjoo and enjoy his great artistic ability. You did make some comments about this BP outfit that are not correct.

Beyond Persia is a non-profit organization. During their almost two years of existance they have been self-sustainig, never to use any outside funds for their operation. During their existance they have had art shows, concerts and etc. They at all time have tried to promote the art of Iranian artists in the best light. In doing so they have never shied away from spending the extra funds to provide the best venues and service to their audience.

Mr. Namjoo's project started over 10 months ago with BP being fully responsible for purcuring his visa for him to travel to US. It involved long legal work and a lot of staff time. You know that other outfits tried to do the same for Mr. Namjoo without much success.

Check all the venues they have also secured. They are some of the classiest venues throughout US. They have not spared any costs. Instead of Palace, they could have got a foothill college, with the same number of seating and a fraction of the cost.

As I mentoned I have been to several of their events. They all have been very well organized and done in a very professional way. Since they are a non-profit organization, they are not a money making machine by anymeans. I would suggest you get more familiar with them before labling them as greedy money making machine. I also think we can chip in a bit towards any organization that does provide us with quality alternative art and musicand also give our top notch artists the proper promotion and in doing so promote our heritage and culture in the best light. And at the end of the day that is what truly is important in my humble opinion.

Alahazrat Hajagha

Great Concert for a great artist

by Alahazrat Hajagha on

I wish people would simply realize how hard and expensive is to organize such concert and keep it in high quality event. It is very easy just to say it was an expensive concert but It is NOT easy to bring an Iranian artist with Iranian passport to US, get one of the best and classy hall in San Francisco ( one of the most expensive cities in the world), offer dinner after show and give the chance to talk and take picture with artist, hire staff to make sure everything is well organized and in order, and offer the student discounts.
I wish people would simply realize....


I'm sorry to miss the concert!

by LostIdentity . (not verified) on

AND, I'm glad that it was phenomenal. I'm hoping to attend one of his US concerts.
We love you Mohsen aziz;


Worth It

by Nava in SFSU (not verified) on

The concert tickets were not that bad. Students paid $45 and regular admission was $75. Some people bought VIP tickets for $125 which included a dinner party afterwards. The concert was fantastic and worth every penny. I am no concert organizer but I think renting SF Palace of Fine Arts for an event cannot be cheap. Beyond Persia’s concerts are always sold out because people know they would be treated well. In 2007 I went to a Shadmehr Aghili concert at the San Francisco Gift Center and had to pay $45 for the ticket, no discount for students. The concert area was not comparable to this. There were no chairs and I had to stand for 4 hours to see Shadmehr. Also last year I had to pay $75 for a ticket to see Parisa at the same place and there was no student discount. Be fair guys.

There was no way I could miss Namjoo’s concert. I am glad he came to San Francisco. I thought it was an excellent concert and worth the $45 I paid as a student.



by kfravon on

..unique/different---I could hear a bit of blues...vocal jazzy ... loved it! ...I too wish he would have started by saying: 'Salaam'...? I suppose he's too shy. I still enjoyed it very much! .. nice crowd too!


Pricey tx!!!

by kimia on

I have to agree with Mirzakhan that the tx were pricey!!. No doubt he is a great artist; yet please B.P. don't capitalize on someone elses talent!!  (so then don't call yourself nonprofit cultural org!!)




I wish he would......

by SF girl (not verified) on

Loved the concert, I laughed with his songs, I cried with his songs.... I wanted him to sit there "solo" and just talk.

I wish he would talk, I wish he would start by saying :salam, salam baratoon avordam az tehran, az iran, salame maderetoono, salame pedaretoono, salame khoonevade, salame hamsaye, salame baghaal, salame.....
I wish when he said: Ahange badi male shahre khodame: khorasan, he would say: 2 rooz az oonja biroon boodam, degh kardam az doorish, shoma ha chetor inghadr doorin?

I wish he would say: ba hamoon kafshaye Tehran-am oomadam, khaakesh ro avordam baraye shoma.

He walked in, and Tehran walked in for me. He was shy, he got shocked. He couldn't believe it is a sold out concert. I bet he was saying to himself: $125 har belit? poole chand maahe ye khoonevade-st. $50 daadan mano badesh bebinan? kash midadan be ..........

He was amazing, I did not want his to leave the stage. I loved his music, what ever it is called.

merci Mr Namjoo


Great Artist

by mirzakhan (not verified) on

He is a great artist. The only problem with his tour is that it is organized by this B.P. outfit. The tix were outrageously priced and catered to the Yuppies (meet and great the artist for an additional 50$!!). Too much of a money making machine at B.P.

Really, not what he would have wanted. I know that for a fact.

And please do not censor this as a lot of people felt that way.



by Arash Partow (not verified) on

This guy is so overrated its not funny. I find his form of art more so a comical form of entertainment than anything else - and as far as breaking from tradition and being unique and novel well I think his stuff is a direct rip-off of Vulgargrad (Kings of Russian Criminal Sound) and generally all Russian thief style music.

In short: boring, overrated, unoriginal - people need to get out more.

Arash Monzavi-Kia

Nightingale of sorrow

by Arash Monzavi-Kia on

بلبل غمزده

در آن هوا که جز برق اندر طلب نباشد

گر خرمنی بسوزد چندان عجب نباشد

مرغی که با غم دل شد الفتیش حاصل

بر شاخسار عمرش برگ طرب نباشد




He is just great!

by Khojasteh (not verified) on

Vow! Namjoo is amazing. He is a true artist and musician. He has bravely mixed old and new, west and east, past and present. His music is a fresh air, a true artistic experience. He talks about revolution, war, religion, contemporary Tehran, Hafez, Sa’di, Shamloo, pain and suffering, humor, Khorasan, Ghashghaii. He is about experiencing contemporary Iran as a whole. He is exceptionally talented and he is also very humble and approachable. His concert is a "must be in it" experience.

Azadeh Azmoudeh


by Azadeh Azmoudeh on

He not only is brave to break the tradition, in what we think traditional music must be (as in our friend above "..."), but he also brought a renovation in our music that deserves applauding. I can't wait to attend his San Diego concert and will post my opinion in my blog. Also, to reply to ..., Namjoo is original, not a follower. Every era needs its own music, art, literature, and etc. This is one of them in music. I, for one, admire him and his music.





Red Wine


by Red Wine on

Sorry Sir , What is the name of the type of his music ? Is not Sonnati music and neither Clasic one !!!

Any new and original answer ?!  ...