Sunday, June 04, 2006


"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." ~ Victor Hugo.

I had a long conversation with a friend yesterday. It was mostly about politics and "the situation" in Kurdistan in general, and the North in particular, with a few odds and ends thrown in, as conversations usually go. In the midst of it, however, I noticed that there was one recurring theme, that of music. Kurdish music, naturally.

It's not unusual for Kurds to speak about music; on the contrary, it borders on obsession. It is derived from, and sustained by, Kurdish political aspirations; hence its ban for so many decades in the North. It is easy to say that Kurdish music has a strong political angle, but the reality goes much deeper than that, so that music becomes even more important for Kurds than food. Food is necessary to sustain the body, and in this respect, any food will do. But music feeds the heart and spirit of Kurds and, therefore, only Kurdish music can properly nourish the Kurdish spirit.

Listening to Helebçe, by Şivan Perwer, I can close my eyes and see the dun-colored Zagros Mountains rising up around the city. I see the school girls walking home from their morning classes. I see the mass graves, clothed in wildflowers and grass. I see the rutted, muddy roads and feel the sorrow and suffering that still haunts the place.

Kirîvê and Gulizer are anywhere from Riha to Qoser, Qamişlo to Nisêbîn to Cizîr. They are gently rolling green fields, guard towers, concertina wire, and no-man's land.

Hewlêr, by Hozan Serhat, doesn't remind me of Hewlêr; it reminds me of Hesenkeyf. It was on the road to Hesenkeyf, that a friend suddenly realized that the tape we brought with us had Hewlêr recorded about five times on one side, hence accounting for the thirty times we heard the song. Upon this discovery, he yanked the tape out of the dashboard, with some disgust, and declared that we were not going to listen to "Hewlêr, Hewlêr, Hewlêr" all the way to Hesenkeyf from Amed. But, the damage was already done. By repetition, Hewlêr settled in for the day, and now I associate it with red poppies, climbing through ruins, listening to a shepherd sing to us near a cliff, and dangling feet in the cool, clear Dicle, while drinking tea and eating homemade boregi.

On the other hand, Zekerîa's Ha Gulê and Baw Baw remind me of Hewlêr in the springtime, of family picnics, of colorful dresses and dancing, of pêşmerge guarding the scene in their typical, relaxed Southern way. They are the fabulous, colorful fruitstand in Ainkawa, while Agir Ketiye Dilê Min is standing on a mountain near Barzan, at night, listening to the wind.

Gulek--the older version--by Ciwan Haco, is arrival in Amed, the walls, Wan cheese in the morning and kebabs late at night. Agirê Jiyan's Dimeşin is riding through the city, sometimes much too fast, and identifying as many civilian-clothed intelligence types as one can. Diyar's Lê Lê Dayê is the heartbreak of leaving Amed.

Even now, when I am not guarding myself closely enough, the music has the power to make its way deep into my subconscious. It will transport me, unaware, back to these places and to the people associated with them, and I will feel as though I am really there, as though I can feel the breeze on my face and hear the utter silence of the mountains. Then realty shatters the memory. The breeze is ordinary, silence is replaced by clamor, and I am left only with the sorrow of separation once again.


Heval said...

No one could have put it better than the way you said, "Kurdish music can properly nourish the Kurdish spirit." This is so very true and nothing makes me happier to be who I am when I listen to my music every morning. Music has always played a very important part of Kurdish culture... from styles developed for old Kurdish rituals to story-telling.

Just to add to this... I hope more of the newer Kurdish artists understand the value and meaning of Kurdish music better, as most of the older legendary artists did, and find new ways to improve it. Kurdish music and it's many styles is very rich and there are so many different angles a musician can take when composing new music. There is no need to borrow from other genres or from Arab or Turkish music like some of the newer artists do. The world of Kurdish music is so large and vast that one could never run out of ideas from the different angles one could take.

I hope I make sense. I am not good with musician terminology because I look at music as an art, and art is difficult thing to explain because I feel that it comes within...

Anyways, thanks for the post xatû Mizgîn. It was a different and new thing to think about...


R2K said...

: )

Mizgîn said...

Birayê min, we suffer from the same handicap then, because I also know nothing about musical terminology.

Since I am fairly ignorant of the technical side of music (like the terminology), I have to rely on the sense of the heart to choose what I like. I tend to hear the whole thing, the entire sound with the feel that it conveys, and when I hear something new, it will evoke a certain generic Kurdish scene and feel. . . if you know what I mean. I am quite happy listening to music that has no verbal song to it, such as Zahîd Brifkanî, Egîde Cimo or simply def û zurne (as I think about it, that last might be my favorite, because I am a drum fanatic).

Speaking of drums, Ali Akbar Moradi's music contains some of the most spontaneous and joyful sounding hand drumming I have ever heard. Drums are definitely powerful.

I agree with you that Kurdish music is very rich and I would also prefer that Kurdish musicians draw from tradition. For example, I had to point out which Gulek by Ciwan Haco I prefer, because I have heard enough of the remix of this song to know I don't like it. It doesn't have the same effect that the old one has. It's too . . . generic. On the other hand, I really like Koma Dengê Azadî's Ez te baş nas dikim (Fedî CD), even though it seems heavily influenced by jazz.

Hand-in-glove with music is dance, especially for the North because even when Kurdish music was illegal, Kurds could still dance.

How ya doin', Alex?

Vladimir said...

I wonder what you think of Azad's new album and Serhado. And the music of Ari Sipan and Hesen Sherif. It's more Kurdish hip hop. If you want I can sent it to your e-mail.

I really like this post Rasti!

heftirik said...

hevala Mizgîn!

thats a very nice article as all of your artciles are!

"if music is the food of love, then let it play" shakespeare, i am not sure if it was exactly like that, because it was long time ago when i watched twelfth night and thats all i remember from it.

i will just connect it with something "if music is the love of kurdistan, then let it play till forever".

i still do remember when the soldiers came to our village everyone would get their casettes of şivan perwer, in which there were songs like helebçe, ka kurdistana min ka, kine em, cotkar and etc, and some other artists' such as eyşe şan, and would bury them under the ground, in zibil(natural fertilizer, shit) or in the holes of the soba (stove)..those days are still in my memory.

i still remember whenever the soldiers would find a kurdish casette they would burn it, the beat the family who owned that...but no matter what..after the soldiers went, they would make another copy of şivan perwer's casettes.

well yo know, we kurds, have been always opressed, and we were not allowed to use our language either written or oral, and thats why we have a very strong musci tardition. we can say all of our sorrows, happinesses, wars, worries, excitements and everything in those great songs. kurdish is such a beautiful, and lyrical langage that makes that process even easier. whenever we were massacred şivan became our emotions interpreter and sang "fermane fermane...seddem avêştiye helebçê kimyesale..disa fermane li ser serê me kurdane...fermane fermane fermane..." with his zelal, xweş û delal voice...heartbreaking...

thanks again for the artcile hevala pirr hêja Mizgîn!!

Anonymous said...

...don't forget the East either. Even when music and dance illegal, Eastern Kurds could never resist putting their lives in danger to Helperke/Govend.

Mizgîn said...

Thanks, Vladimir. I haven't heard Azad's new CD but I have heard him and he sounds like an Israeli hip hop musician I have heard. I haven't heard Ari Sipan or Hesen Sherif. I like Serhado.

I think it will depend on where these guys take their music. Is it going to serve the cause or not? Should it serve the cause or not? Originally, rap and hip hop was rather political in nature and I think a lot of it has moved away from that, so that it's now merely commercial. I'm not too interested in the merely commercial. I do think that one reason why I tolerate hip hop better than that "remix" stuff is because the hip hop tends to have more drum-like rhythm to it. Being that I am a drum fanatic, well. . . drums are very elemental and primitive and I am very elemental and primitive. So, there you go.

Anonymous, you are correct. The Rojhelatî wouldn't be able to lift their heads and call themselves Kurds if they weren't willing to die for dancing. But, of course, they are Kurds, so they cannot resist dancing!

Heval Xelef, I'm going to tell you something. . . I'm really glad that you liked this one because you were the one who inspired it. If you didn't like it, I'd have to kick your @ss all the way to Hekarî, man :P

Seriously, what you say about the music and the punishments for having it, this was a result of how political music has been. I remember reading something about Radio Yerevan, that it was the first radio that broadcast Kurdish music. When that happened, it was electrifying because Kurds suddenly realized that all the BS they had been told about Kurdish not being a real language and not a language suitable for broadcast (the excuse of Kemalist ideology to deny everything having to do with the existence of Kurds), was demolished. Everybody knew it was all a lie. So the next time that you hear some lie about Roj TV being unfit for broadcasting because it's "terrorist," think back to Radio Yerevan and know that even though there is now lip service paid to Kurdish language, this whole thing is not about Kurdish language alone (for one thing, Roj doesn't broadcast exclusively in Kurdish). It's about the free expression of Kurdish thought and the existence of Kurdistan.

As for the language being beautiful, this reminds me of Diyar's Bira Huseyin, where he has that little monologue that he speaks at the beginning of the song. . . it is so beautiful, with his voice and the language. . . it makes me feel as though I would melt with how soothing it sounds.

Ah, no! Don't start with "Fermane, fermane, fermane. . ." It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It is such a wail of sorrow and of mourning, and that is the power of the whole song.

heftirik said...

i am glad that i did not say i did not like it! otherwise i would have to fly from stenbol to colemêrg and that would be a long and tough trip for me! :P

no it was really good hevala hêja!

and i want to say something to you too. since i saw you very determined, you inspired me to write in my blog as well. so you are responcible for it:)

xatirê te hevla min a pirr hêja!

Vladimir said...

Mizgîn said...

Heval Xelef, I cannot encourage you enough to keep up with your efforts, because they are very much needed. Serkeftin, bira!

Vladimir, I like the Ari/Hesen clip better of the two, and I think that this genre can definitely work as a vehicle in support of Kurdayetî. It does make me have the same feelings as the more traditional music does--like making me think of certain places or people or events--but I do like it.

It is definitely an asset for the cause.

kestey said...

i just wanna fill all of you in on the hesen, ari, and sipan song. it was made in sweden. my brother sipan went their and decided to make a song with my uncle hesen and my cousin ari. my cousin ari has quite a few kudish/rap songs. if anybody wants to hear them i would be more than happy to send them to you.

Anonymous said...

wow, thats really cool. I think its a great thing when family members get together to make a song. thats another wonderful thing about kurdish brings everyone together. another great website to hear that music is

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