Mohsen Namjoo - “Toranj”

Barbad Music (Iran)
2007 (1386)

Nobody has been able to escape the Mohsen Namjoo craze in the Iranian media these past months! He has in this short period of time “above ground” received such a publicity that no other newcomer has ever managed to get. And he hasn’t really left this PR campaign entirely up to fate either! Being actively outspoken in the media and controversial in his statements (not to mention paradoxical) have been the main contributing factors to this publicity (feel free to read more in my blog, just type “namjoo“ in the search engine). Namjoo is an academically trained musicians who plays a range of both Iranian and Western instruments, he once left his studies unfinished due to the difficulties he had with the conservatism reigning the academy. He has previously recorded several illegal albums with eccentric titles such as “Baad & Buddha”, “Jabre Joghraafiyaayi” and “Aghaayede NeoKanti” along with productions for the state television such as his breakthrough theme for the “Torsh & Shirin“ series. Recently Mohsen Namjoo moved to Holland for a life and study in the European country, after the growl with the state media over his unwanted connection with the LA-TVs. His immigration happened shortly before the sudden release of his legal debut, which faced until just recently a definite rejection from Ershaad. The album entitled “Toranj” is composed mainly by Namjoo based on works by artists like Muddy Waters, Steve Ray Vaughn, Deep Purple, Leonard Cohen, Camel and Johnny Lee Hooker and arranged by the artist himself along with the “Mud Band“. “Toranj” features unlike its mainly Western musical influences primarily the poetry of great Iranian legends such as Hafez, Rumi, Attar, Baba Taher as its lyrical content. Released with nine audio tracks and one music video on Barbad Music

The album opens with the title-track "Toranj", a CAMEL-based song and words of Hafez in a blend with Kermani's. The BLUES is soothing and the performance engaging! A great opening with an appeal for the mainstream market.

"Ro sar Bene be Baalin" uses Steve Ray Vaughn's music to accompany the words of Rumi, Baba Taher and the DOORS' Jim Morrison in an unholy but mystical marriage! Ever imagined Morrison's words in an Iranian "aavaaz"? If anyone else had done this and sounded the same it would have been labelled a "joke", but not in Namjoo's case!

The psychedelic sound of DEEP PURPLE creates a tense and frenetic atmosphere which gets even more SUFI mystical through the words of Rumi in "Talkhi Nakonad".

Next comes "Va va Leili", an Afghan FOLK song inviting the "naked" master's words in an ethnic ensemble!

Leonard Cohen, his music and even singing inspire Namjoo to utter the words of Hafez in "Tarsam ke ..."! The shortest track on the album.

The Khajeh of Shiraz returns in a JAZZ/BLUES fusion based on Johnny Lee Hooker's tunes!

Not going far, the BLUES gets consolidated in the slide guitars and the spirit of the legendary Muddy Waters! "Jorah Baz" in the words of Baba Taher.

Finally to the first of two songs that have not been derived from others' originals! "Dar Miyaane Jang (Vang Vang)" sounds confident in its BLUES/JAZZ/ROCK fusion!

Ending the album with my and many others' favourite song by the artist! "Zolf" was brought to a broader public attention through a video featuring the ill-fated actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi in an ARTHOUSE style photography! This is a soundtrack for rainy weekends, just put it on replay and enjoy the gloomy glory of autumn within the frame of the window ...

Ershaad has serious problems with Namjoo's own lyrics and the classic poetry used in "Toranj" is reportedly not what Namjoo himself wants to continue delivering bur rather only a compromise for a permit! Apparently his heart is set on a more progressive mode, both musically and lyrically. Namjoo’s music has both been acclaimed and blamed! The critics who are from the extreme poles of his musical spectrum accuse him of carelessness and unfaithfulness to each respective genre. Those more moderate fans and musicians from the nexus of these genres however acclaim him for his ambition and aspiration to fuse and hybridise these genres. So needless to say the Namjoo FUSION is least said controversial in most artistic circles and societies!

Recently New York Times published a short article about him aiming to save the Iranian music, an article in which he was referred to as the Bob Dylan of Iran! In my opinion, as a political scientist and a music critic, Mohsen Namjoo is an eligible candidate in a position which allows him to be either the Amir Kabir of the Iranian music or the Mohamad Khatami of it! But will his visions and ambitions stand the testes of time or will they extend no further than an eccentric image and commercial hype? Like Khatami who faced a gridlocked system Namjoo is facing a closed system of cultural dogmatism which takes more than words to dissolve and dismantle. Therefore his time in Europe is of a great importance in his career, its where he can openhandedly experiment with the heritages of both East and West without being stopped. I believe that Namjoo possesses the substance and hunger which is needed and essential for this Herculean challenge that he has taken on, at the same time he is not precisely a reluctant hero either and enjoys every second of his time of fame under the spotlight! And this unbecoming SUPERSTARDOM is exactly what I fear to eventually lead to his downfall from both CRAZE and GRACE!

Overall Performance: +++
Artistic Ambition: +++
Commercial Potential: +++
Technical Quality: ++
Aesthetic Presentation: ++
Ethical Adherence: +++
[ +++ > --- ]

Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!