Public Diplomacy: Iranian singer headlines VOA concert

The Voice of America’s Persian News Network will broadcast a three-hour concert for Persian New Year this weekend.

The singer-songwriter considered Iran’s Bob Dylan makes his international live television concert debut this Saturday on a three-hour Persian Nowruz, or New Year’s, special that will be broadcast on the Voice of America’s Persian News Network and beamed into Iran by multiple satellites.

Mohsen Namjoo, sentenced in absentia to five year’s imprisonment for his music, is among several entertainers and other celebrities appearing in the VOA Nowruz special.  Also on stage live from the Newseum in Washington D.C. will be Persian rap artist Shahin Najafi, who fled Iran after coming under pressure from government authorities to remove political messages from his music, and the 127 Band, which merges Iranian and other music influences to create a unique sound.

Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi will deliver a special New Year’s message during the show.  Other guests will include Anousheh Ansari, the world’s first female private space explorer and the first astronaut of Iranian descent; Oscar nominee and Emmy award winning Iranian-American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo; award-winning filmmaker and photographer Shirin Neshat; and exiled Iranian novelist, poet, critic and political activist Reza Baraheni.

The live special will be hosted by Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, the hosts of VOA Persian News Network’s popular satirical show “Parazit.”  Besides entertainment, Saturday’s show, dubbed “Norouzit,” will take a look back at the tumultuous events of the past year in Iran, especially the disputed Presidential election of last June and the protest movement that grew in its wake.

VOA’s PNN is, interestingly, rarely mentioned when mentioning successful public diplomacy programs. The above show is a superb example of using culturally-aware means to engage an audience to open a channel to communicate information and ideas.

Also this Saturday, VOA launches a new English-learning website for Farsi-speakers, http://farsi.goenglish.me/.

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