Shahin Najafi (Presented by Farhang Foundation)
Date(s) - 06/17/2023
6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
Farhang Foundation, Grand Performances
Shahin Najafi is an influential classically-trained Iranian musician, poet, singer, and social activist who gained international notoriety because his activism and the lyrical content of his music, which deals with issues such as theocracy, poverty, sexism, censorship, child labor, drug addiction and homophobia.
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Shahin Najafi is a musician, poet, singer, and social activist. He was born in 1980 to a middle-class family in Bandar-e Anzali, Iran, the youngest of eight children. He started writing poetry and learning to play classical and flamenco guitar in his teens. He turned to rock music, often performing as an underground musician.
As a young activist, Shahin’s lyrics often conveyed strong and controversial messages about Iranian society. This attracted the disapproval of Iranian authorities and in 2004, the threat of persecution forced him to leave Iran.
In 2005, Shahin moved to Germany. Dubbed the “angry bard”, he continued to write and perform music that was critical of conditions in Iran: poverty, oppression of women, homophobia, censorship, ideological dogmas, violence and cultural taboos. For a time, his career veered into rap and hip hop, bringing him fame among young fans back in Iran. These days, Shahin’s music fuses rock, jazz, and blues with lyrics that demand change.
In 2012, Shahin released his most controversial song: Naghi. In it, he exhorts a Shiite Imam named Naghi to help solve some of the problems plaguing Iran. But religious hardliners called the song an insult to Imams, a crime severely punished in Iran, and used Fatwas (religious edicts) to demand his death. Around the world, politicians, scholars, musicians, and devoted fans rose to Shahin’s defense, propelling him into the limelight as a proponent of free speech.
Shahin Najafi lives in Germany, and is still at odds with Iranian authorities. He remains a dedicated and defiant artist who refuses to be silenced, delivering his message to enthusiastic audiences wherever he tours. His fan base continues strong in Iran and has spread around the world.
In an industry that often rewards mindless entertainment, Shahin stands apart as a musician who brings both catchy riffs and revelations to every performance — as he says, “a pitcher of cold water poured on a slumbering society”.