This is somewhat of a follow-up to AN’s posting a few days ago which introduced Kurdish music. He wrote that in Kurdish music there is ‘a lot of emphasis on political, cultural and societal issues.’ What is also true is that politics often affect singers and artists and they are forced to emigrate or run the risk of harassment and/or imprisonment.
Music is a powerful tool of cultural expression. This posting will focus on singers from the wild West (Syria) where freedom to express Kurdish identity does not exist in any form. All of the singers I mention below no longer reside in Syria. To flourish they had to leave. Staying in Syria would only silence them and their passion to express themselves through music.
So let’s have a look at some singers from the west. As AN has already mentioned Ciwan Haco, I’ll talk about others. Had AN not mentioned him, he would be at the top of the list here.
I’ve picked out six singers/musicians to introduce. They are, in no particular order, Lorîn Berzincî, Narîn Feqe, Miço Kendeş, Suzana Barmanî, Abbas Ahmed, and Şeyda. There are many, many others, past and present, but this half dozen represents a good variety of talent and style.
Lorîn Berzincî was born in Qamişlo (a town that has produced many of the singers from West Kurdistan) in 1980, but moved to Europe with her family at the age of 10. She released her first album, Çîrokên Evînê (Tales of Love), in 2007. I think she falls more into the ‘Kurds of the diaspora’ singers than not, but she was born in Qamişlo so I include her here. The video below is a song from that album called Derdî Evînê (Pain of Love). As you’ll see, it’s heavily influenced by her European upbringing. Even more noticeable in her video Mal Awayî.
Narîn Feqe was born in the city of Dêrek near Qamişlo in 1980. Narin released her first single in 2005 to coincide with Newruz that year. Narîn’s new album (2009) is Hêvî (Hope) whose songs combine traditional Kurdish music, modern oriental rhythms and a Euro-pop style. Hêvî is dedicated to Kurdish woman and carries a message of peace and freedom.
Like Lorîn Berzincî, Narîn Feqe and her family emigrated to Europe (Sweden) when she was 10 years old. Narîn’s father, Cudî, also a well-known singer, instilled in her a deep appreciation for Kurdish song and taught her much of what she knows. She started to sing professionally at the age of 22.
Miço Kendeş was born in Kobanî in 1966. He was brought up on Kurdish tales and epic stories told to him by his grandmother. He thrived on the legends and heroes of Kurdish culture and brings them back to life in a spirited vocal interpretation.
Memê Alan occupies a prominent place among these epic figures, whose adventures were handed down for centuries and then finally recorded in writing by the 17th century Kurdish poet Ehmedê Xanî. The video below is a live performance of ‘Memê Alan’ in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2007.
Kendeş started singing at a very young age, always entering song contests and performing at local festivals. He sang in Arabic or Kurdish, depending on the circumstances. He taught himself to play a variety of stringed instruments as well. He later moved to Aleppo (Heleb) to continue his musical training, taking private lessons with recognised musicians, and learning about Arabic, Persian and Turkish music traditions. Kendeş now resides in Switzerland.
Suzana Barmanî was born 1964, in Ariha, Syria and spent many years of her childhood in the Heleb and Efrîn provinces. In 1985 she left for Bulgaria. After studying music there for several years she moved to Sweden. Her first album ‘Lê Lê’ was released in August 2004. The video below, from that album, is her song ‘Diyarbakır.’ This song is done a more traditional style than her sometimes jazzy, blues beat. Her singing has been at times described as ‘Kurdish night club’ style.
My favourite of this group is Abbas Ahmed, also from Qamişlo (born 1969). He is very popular in Germany (largest Kurdish diaspora population in Europe). His discography is extensive.: Keça Delal (1996), Deynek (1997), Barana Tirsê (2000), Mêvana Xewnê (2003), and Bi Tenê (2007).
He’s very laid-back, almost always in jeans, and has an amazing voice. My favourite album is Barana Tirsê (Rain of Fear), and I like Qamişlo and Hey Dinyayê in particular. Hauntingly melodic and ever so smooth. Here’s Qamişlo, but it’s not his video. His song, but someone has put together a slide show…lots of photos of the infamous football match there and of Kurdish cleric Khaznawi, murdered by Syrian security.
Zaroktî (Childhood) is unique in that it has this bit of English-language hip-hop/rap thrown into the middle of it.
Here’s a clip from a concert in Frankfurt last November:
More of his tunes are available on his website.
Finally, a brief mention of Şeyda, who is from Amûde. He has a great voice and is well known for his love songs. What more can you say about love songs? Video is Evina Te (Your Love).
So that’s a brief roundup from the West. I’ll turn the music reviews back over to AN…