Namjoo 101


by bahmani

Not that I am by any means qualified to even try and explain Namjoo, but recently, after the first leg of his US tour, which started in San Francisco this past Saturday, I have been deluged with emails.

From young people whose Farsi is not as good as it needs to be, and by older folks who are dumbfounded by the sound they cannot believe is coming from the speakers, as everyone tries to understand the Mohsen Namjoo phenomenon.

As I said, I don't know much, but here's my attempt to explain it:

"On Sep 8, 2008, at 3:30 AM, D (from Paris, France) wrote:
I listened to it on your PodCast but Honestly, Personally, KAR SHODAM ..."

Dear D,

Personally, as music that is amusing in a pop sense, I understand your concern. :)

The best way to try and make sense of it is to accept this kind of crazy. It is "alternative" to what you or I might consider "normal pop". It is abnormal and it is specifically designed to shake up the status quo. Almost punk in it's existence, only that it has not spawned a movement to go with it. Yet.

But it is poised to spawn a wave of what we can call "anti-music", if this is what is finally destined to happen for Iranians. FINALLY, IF.

Namjoo is possibly the most "anti" critic I have seen since Golehsorkhi. His words are so profound that you cannot begin to understand all of them, he makes fun of the government or the religious or the current social order personalities, thoughts and practices that we here in the US can only begin to imagine. He ridicules the intellectual arguments that are being made by the social order that is in power to support their oppressive views, the current exasperating "characters" of the time and day.

For example on one (I think you will like especially because of the mention of "Shaghayegheh Normandy" (beautiful Normandy Poppies) the song, "Aghayedeh Nokanti" ("Notable Opinions"), he talks about what is "Your (our collective) Misery?" (Azaneh Man/To), in the refrain he says,

[translated roughly, but listen to it a couple of times without letting the music confuse you, and you'll possibly hear and understand the words better than I can ever explain]

What is our misery? (Azaneh ma)

Kookooyeh 2 rooz mandeh: 2- day old Kookoo
(possibly alluding to current hard times for a person living in Iran, the hassle of eating leftovers, a social norm these days, or a hidden secret you keep to avoid the social embarrassment of admitting you may not have enough to eat fresh each day, admitting social economic reality of today's Iran)

Koloftieh Parvandeh: The Thickness of your file,
(possibly alluding to the personal/political secret police files on people)

Enteghadeh Sazandeh: The [unfair] critique of the "producer"
(possibly alluding to the unfair criticisms that the government hacks/supporters will make on art or creativity, poo-pooing it as insignificant, or western trash etc. when it is merely the slightest bit profound, or modern or evolutionary. This is the commentary of how inside Iran, the hacks, shoot down any advance towards modernity by their social public critique of it, always trying to point out flaws and how it is not artistic at all, rather than allowing an artist to merely express himself, so, our misery is the misery of oppressive criticisms)

Melli-poosheh Bazandeh: National jersey wearing losers
(possibly self explanatory, but maybe alluding to the supposedly nationalistic football players who often capitulate with the government and are used by them for propaganda, and are in fact traitors, who don't even win any major matches ie world cup!)

Khelghateh na-khandeh: The unheard/un-listened to masses
(C'mon that's so obvious!)

Shayad-Ayandeh: Maybe, in the future...
(probably alludes to the constant utterance or perceived concession, that the regime makes to appease people asking why, by saying that things can change if this, or if that happens, enshallah etc., and maybe sometime in the future we can allow this or allow that. But not right now, as a way to keep you off track. Apparently they do this a lot and it has become part of our "collective misery of oppression".

Beh Eshghe 15 Santeh: 6 inches of love. (I'm either twsted, deviant, or I swear this is a sexual connotation that I'm not even going to finish writi...)

So, possibly, maybe, probably that's what he is singing. I could be entirely and totally off, but it's what I'm getting from it that counst, you might get something totally different. And possibly, maybe, probably you can now understand why he often has to shout it or scream it or make it sound odd, strange and weird. He's trying to get your attention.

This past Saturday, the show was sold out, and people were standing up and shouting in angry support in the middle of his songs when a possibly, maybe, probbaly political comment touched them.

He was amazing to watch, but I agree it is not patisserie, coffee sipping background music.

What he is, is possibly the smartest, most angry expression of anti-oppression against the Iranian social order, that I have ever seen.

The subterfuge of the weirdness, the shouting, the weird sounds, the strange rough music, is the camouflage that apparently allows him to get his message through without necessarily being specific as to who he is criticizing, so "they" or "we" have to allow him his say, "they" or "we" can't really pin him down as anti anything, specifically.

That's is how smart and powerful his particular brand of ART is.

But you are correct, on the surface it's not pleasurable, and it's absolutely not supposed to be.



more from bahmani

Do artists just want beauty ?

by a (not verified) on

"listeners might want sublimity, but artists just want beauty."

I am not sure about this.
May be this was true 500 years ago but anymore.
Well not even then, François Villon ( 1431 – 1463)describes the ugliness of medieval France. Beaudelaire's poems ( 19th cent) represent well how ugly the world is. A little attention to Namjoo's words, decipher ugliness.
The social satire lit. in Iran isn't reflecting the ugliness?.( Jamal Zadeh). examkes are many.

It is this ugliness that frustrates namjoo, as anonymous interested mentioned so thoughtfully in his review.

As an art lover, I will stay away from any “artist” who wants to represent only beauty. Let that be the job of the right wing politicians who focus only on one message : “EVGERYTHUBG IS FINE”



So what is it? I don,t waneh

by samsam1111 on

read 3 books of hafez to find out where he like Great Ferdowsi to me my good man straight talk in 2 beit..Is He fed up with Qadesiyeh regime in Iran or He is just like the rest of LA music Dubai type crowd..You don,t have to tell me but if You do It will be less speculation on my part..thx Pal!!

AmirAshkan Pishroo

The heresy of paraphrase

by AmirAshkan Pishroo on

Yes, we can listen to Namjoo’s words as political message but that is ONE interpretive part.

Very interesting points, Anonymous Interested.

To say what the lines mean is, indeed, to kill everything that is interesting in the song. That is the kind of approach that Cleanth Brooks calls "the heresy of paraphrase." For Brooks, meaning in poetry is irreducible, because "a true poem is a simulacrum of experience rather than any mere
statement about experience or any mere abstraction from experience."

The reduction of the poem to a bare statement is to cut away the beauty of language to get to some sort of message.

Listeners might want sublimity, but artists just want beauty.

How about those who want pleasure? Nietzsche says, "Man does not live for pleasure; only Englishmen do that."

All in all, very good review.


Thans for the article

by Anonymous Interested (not verified) on

Well written article, especially through the end of it. My only problem with your view is the over- polarization of it. Yes, we can listen to Namjoo’s words as political message but that is ONE interpretive part. Beyond that there is a global feeling, a kind of odd but true panorama of the world and Iran in his words and music.

Picasso once said “I don’t know why everybody tries to understand paintings. There is nothing to understand (intellectualize) When a bird sings you don’t try to understand what it says, you only listen, you might like it or not.”
This is of course a bit different from painting. Words have meanings to understand but still as an art form we need to open all our antennas (not only some) to allow the whole of it to be received.

On the other hand this man’s music is not for entertainment or to comfort; there is tons of music for that purpose. He is the result of a collision between talent and frustration and so far he is expressing it perfectly.