A few weeks ago, I was invited to go meet Arash Alaei at a Mohsen Namjoo concert. Mohsen Namjoo is a Persian singer-songwriter who was born in 1976. Namjoo has studied classical Persian vocal music and Persian folk music, as well as being familiar with Western blues and rock. His first concert outside of Iran was in 2006 at the International Rotterdam Film Festival and first played a live TV concert on Voice of America for a Nowruz celebration in March, 2010. He was called “Iran’s Bob Dyland” by the New York Times.
I saw Namjoo play at Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I have to admit that I was nervous, knowing that the venue would be filled with Iranians speaking Persian and also knowing that my own Persian is not up to par. I was right on multiple accounts: I think I was the only non-Iranian there, and almost the entire concert was in Persian. All of the songs were in Persian, the introduction was in Persian, and Namjoo spoke in Persian with English introductions to his songs or anecdotes thrown in occasionally. The only sentence I actually understand in the whole hour-and-a-half concert was when we were asked to silence our cell phones.
Nevertheless, the concert was very enjoyable. Namjoo apparently played a hilarious encore, seeing as the entire audience was bursting with laughter. Even my Iranian friend who accompanied me, who is not a fan of Namjoo’s music, couldn’t contain his laughter.
During the intermission, I wandered around looking for Arash Alaei, since I had not been able to get in contact with him before the concert. Just when I was about to give up hope, I saw a man who looked like the Arash Alaei I had seen in pictures. My friend went up to him and asked in Persian if he was the man for whom I was looking and, indeed, he was. Mr. Alaei was extremely kind to me, talking to me about My Persian-Speaking Friends and where we can take it, as well as introducing me to a woman whom he thought might be a good contact for me.
I am going to attend “a symposium to celebrate the freedom of the Alaei brothers and their contribution to HIV and Aids prevention and care” at the University of Albany on December 1st. It will be a fairly long drive, but my encounters with the Alaeis makes me confident that this will be an event well worth the trip.