Mohsen Namjoo jailed?

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In today's Iran Updates at niacINsight:

According to Tabnak, Mohsen Namjoo an Iranian artist and folk singer was sentenced to 5 years in prison for singing lyrics of the Koran in a modern popular style of Music.

Mohsen Namjoo is very popular in Iran and has made a few concerts around the world including in North American cities.

This is further evidence of the government's ongoing effort to clamp down on artists and musicians.

See Hamrah Sho Aziz and Zolf Bar Bad for earlier Language Log posts discussing some of Namjoo's songs.

The Google Translate version of the cited news article is not very helpful, unfortunately.

[Apparently Language Log was already banned in Iran as of December of 2007.]



10 Comments

  1. MikeyC said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 6:49 am

    Was he aware of the consequences of singing "lyrics of the Koran" ( whatever that means) in a modern popular style of music?

  2. GAC said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

    How are "lyrics of the Koran" something you don't understand? I don't know wheter the Koran is written truly in verse, but it certainly could be. I'm actually wondering now in parts the numbered Biblical verses correspond to poetic verse in the original (since all translations I know of are prose, and I doubt the Hebrew-, Aramaic-, and Greek-speaking writers actually included helpful little number references in their texts).

  3. Vijay John said,

    July 14, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

    I can understand that "lyrics of the Koran" may sound slightly odd, but the Koran IS divided into verses (whether or not it "is written truly in verse"). To me, it seems fairly standard for the Koran to be read out in a singsong voice (without too much variation in tune), but I have heard at least one line being sung in a different tune (with more variation than the usual singsong voice).

  4. Ken Brown said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 8:22 am

    GAC said: "I'm actually wondering now in parts the numbered Biblical verses correspond to poetic verse in the original (since all translations I know of are prose, and I doubt the Hebrew-, Aramaic-, and Greek-speaking writers actually included helpful little number references in their texts)."

    The verse numbers are modern (indeed Protestant), chapter numbers are older but not original.

    But most translations of the Bible into English do make an attempt to render Hebrew poetry as verse – including the AV (what Americans call KJV). Newer versions reflect it in typography, with indented lines and breaks in the right places.

    For example the NRSV lays out the first verses of Psalm 137 like this:

    By the rivers of Babylon –
    there we sat down and there we wept
    when we remembered Zion.
    On the willows there
    we hung up our harps.
    For there our captors
    asked us for songs,
    and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying:
    'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!'

    Which isn't exactly typical English prose. The translators could easily have written: "When we remembered Zion we sat down and wept by the rivers of Babylon. We hung up our harps on the willows because our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked us to laugh, and they told us to sing one of the songs of Zion." But they didn't.

    They don't, of course, try to render it into English verse with set numbers of stressed syllables in each line because Hebrew verse (mostly) doesn't do that, nor do they add rhymes or alliteration. But they do try to reflect the verse structure of Hebrew in English and they do try to preserve the alternation and contrasts of sense which are typical of Hebrew poetry,

    Though there is a long tradition of metrical Psalms in English, some of which have become modern hymns – the most familiar might be "The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want" and "All people that on Earth do dwell")

  5. Neil Dolinger said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

    @Ken Brown said "The verse numbers are modern (indeed Protestant), chapter numbers are older but not original."

    Ken, are you sure about the Protestant origin of the verse numbers? I thought the Masoretes started working on that soemwhere between the seventh and tenth centuries CE (or AD if you prefer).

  6. Michael Maxwell said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 8:28 pm

    Re the verse (and chapter) numbering in the Bible, I suggest looking at the authoritative Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapters_and_verses_of_the_Bible
    As befits an authoritative source, it appears there are two conflicting traditions cited for the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament). The article does seem to have a single explanation for the modern numbering of the New Testament, and it is a Protestant source.

  7. A Network Engineer said,

    July 15, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

    While it's possible that the Iranians have banned Language Log specifically, and that other UPenn content is still available from Iran, it's also possible that they're blocking the whole University, or some large subset of it, because of content unrelated to LL.

  8. Ken Brown said,

    July 16, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

    Neil Dolinger said: "Ken, are you sure about the Protestant origin of the verse numbers?"

    Not really! My memory is that the verse divisions may have been old, but that the practice of numbering them within chapters is new, but I might be wrong.

    I'm no Hebrew scholar, I'm afraid. I do my Bible reading in English (& a very tiny bit of Greek) I think the numbers we have in our English-language Bibles now are quite recent. Maybe there is a different tradition of reference or numbering used in Jewish versions.

    Also NB the Masoretic text was not generally used by Christian scholars until the Reformation – most Christian "Old Testaments" were based on the various Greek versions (which are at least as old as the Masoretic text) or on the Latin Vulgate (based on a very early version of the MT)

  9. MikeyC said,

    July 17, 2009 @ 2:41 am

    It just seemed and odd way to describe the verses of the Koran. To me, the word "lyrics" seemed to cheapen the force of those verses. Maybe I need to think on iy a bit more.

  10. William W said,

    July 18, 2009 @ 9:23 am

    MikeyC, "the lyrics of the Koran" also sounds odd to me. I'm not sure if it cheapens the text, but "lyrics" is generally used to describe words that have an ancilary role with regard to music. The word "verse" can be a group of lyrics but can also mean lines or poetry or even (in numbered religious texts) lines of prose. To me, "singing verses of the Koran" or "singing lines from the Koran" or "singing parts of the Koran" all sound more accurate than "singing lyrics of the Koran."

    The Koran most certainly, whether it's written in poetic verse or in prose, is not "lyrics" in this sense. When a text exists before the music, people generally then say that it "is set to music" or that the music "accompanies" the text. To take a recent American example, in the popular musical adaptation of Obama's "Yes We Can," his words wouldn't be accurately described as "lyrics" since they existed before and independent of the music that was then written to "accompany" them.

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