Kurdish music

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The Kurdish culture

Traditionally, there are three types of Kurdish Classical performers - storytellers (çîrokbêj), minstrels (stranbêj) and bards (dengbêj). There was no specific music related to the Kurdish princely courts, and instead, music performed in night gatherings (şevbihêrk) is considered classical. Several musical forms are found in this genre. Many songs and are epic in nature, such as the popular Lawiks which are heroic ballads recounting the tales of Kurdish heroes of the past like Saladin. Heyrans are love ballads usually expressing the melancholy of separation and unfulfilled love. Lawje is a form of religious music and Payizoks are songs performed specifically in autumn. Love songs, dance music, wedding and other celebratory songs (dîlok/narînk), erotic poetry and work songs are also popular.

Musical instruments include the tembûr (saz), biziq (bozuk), qernête (oboe) and bilûr (flute) in northern and western Kurdistan, şimşal (long flute), cûzele, kemençe (a spike fiddle that some musicologists have credited the Kurds with its invention) and def (frame drum) in the south and east. Zirne (wooden shawm) and dahol (drum) are found in all parts of Kurdistan.

The most frequently used song form has two verses with ten syllable lines. Kurdish songs (stran or goranî) are characterized by their simple melodies, with a range of only four or five notes.


[edit] History

Historically, Kurdish music has very ancient roots that go back to the Hurrian period of Kurdish history. The Hurrians - the ancestors of the modern Kurds - were an ancient people that inhabited present-day Kurdistan and established several kingdoms before their aryanization by the coming Medes. A Hurrian tablet dating back to the 13th century B.C. was discovered in Ugaret; it contains in its upper portion the text of a Hurrian hymn. In the lower portion, it contains a series of numbers and technical terms that have been interpreted as a score rendering the tune to which the hymn would have been sung. This is then the earliest known musical score in history. Interestingly, the meqam in which the hymn was composed corresponds with the modern meqam "Kurd".

Kurdish musicians had a great role in the musical life of the Islamic caliphate. Zeryab was one among the absolutely greatest musicians in the Islamic era. He brought the Middle Eastern musical tradition to Muslim Spain and trained local musicians in his style. He also invented many maqams and musical forms and improved the design of the 'ûd. Ibrahim Mûsili and Is'haq Mûsili were considered among the greatest musicians of the Abbasid court. They wrote several first-rate works on local Iranic and Mesopotamian styles. Musicologists like Safi al-Din Ûrmawi - the founder of the systematist school of music (Wright 1978) - and Muhammad al-Khatib Arbîlî who wrote some of the most seminal works on Middle Eastern musicology.

[edit] Kurdistan of Turkey

For most of the 20th century, songs in Kurdish language were banned in Turkey. Some singers, like Ibrahim Tatlises and Ahmet Kaya, sang in Turkish, while others violated the ban and were imprisoned, sentenced to death or fled to various countries, especially Germany. A black market, however, has long existed in Turkey, and pirate radio stations and underground recordings have always been available. In the 2000s the ban has been lifted due to the falling activities of PKK.

Some of the foremost figures in Kurdish classical music of the past century from this part include Mihemed 'Arif Cizrawî (1912 - 1986), who is considered the greatest Kurdish classical composer and vocalist, Hesen Cizrawî, Şeroyê Biro, 'Evdalê Zeynikê, Si'îd Axayê Cizîrî and the female singers Miryem Xanê and Eyşe Şan.

Şivan Perwer, the most famous Kurdish musician of all time, came from the Kurdish community of Northern Kurdistan (Turkey). He came to fame in 1972 during a Kurdish revolt in Iraqi Kurdistan, and became a superstar before fleeing to Germany in 1976. Şivan Perwer is a superb composer, vocalist and tembûr player. He concentrates mainly on political and nationalistic music - of which he is considered the founder in Kurdish music - as well as classical and folk music. Şivan's innovative style, passionate melodies and highly expressive and powerful voice, in addition to his masterful use of various instrumental combinations has made him the inspiration of a whole generation of musicians and given him an international reputation.

Another important Kurdish musician from Northern Kurdistan is Nîzammetîn Arîç - also known as "Feqiyê Teyra". He began with singing in Turkish, but rejected becoming a star at the cost of debasing his language and culture. As a result of singing in Kurdish, he was imprisoned, and then obliged to flee to Syria and eventually to Germany. Arîç, also a film director and actor, is greatly talented in performing Kurdish classical music and folk songs with brilliant mastery, dynamism and taste. He also has a unique and elegant style in musical composition.

Other noted musicians from this part include Kazo, Ali Baran, Birader and Beytocan. Famous groups of music are: Koma Amed, Koma Denge Azadi, Carnewa and Agire Jiyan.

[edit] Iranian Kurdistan

In Iran, Kurdish language, radio stations and newspapers have generally been allowed, but music has long been carefully scrutinized for political references. Kurdish music from Iranian Kurdistan has a rather distinctive form with its ancient native instruments such as the Def and the Tembûr and with a shadow of Persian influence. The sacred sufi music of the Yarsanî cult (Ahli Haqq) with its 72 meqams is thought to be one of the most authentic and deep-rooted musical traditions in the world.

Some of the most famous classical musicians - composers and singers - of the past century from this part include Hasan Zirak (1921 - 1972) who performed and recorded more than thousand songs, Muhammad Mamlê (1925 - 1998) who was known for his beautiful voice, Abbas Kamandi and Aziz Shahrokh.

The Kamkars group (Koma Kamkaran) from the city of Sine is a leading ensemble in Kurdish music today. They are internationally renowned for their performance of Kurdish folk music and with great dynamism and innovation. Some members of the group, including Arsalan and Hooshang Kamkar, have also worked individually and produced successful works.

Nasir Rezazî, who resides in Sweden, performs Kurdish music from all genres. Ali Akbar Moradi is the greatest master of the religious tembûr music of the Yarsan cult to which he belongs. Female singers include the late Marziye Fariqi and her sister, Leila who is known for performing pop-Westernized songs.

Several Kurds have also been influential in classical Persian music, including Said Ali Asghar Kordestani (1882 - 1936), Shahram Nazeri, Kayhan Kalhor and Jamshid Andalibi.

[edit] Iraqi Kurdistan

Until Saddam Hussein rose to power later in the 20th century, Kurds in Iraq were allowed to perform as they wished, so long as music did not encroach on politics. Ali Mardan (1904 - 1981), a well known singer and composer, arose during this period. Restrictions on recording grew slowly, and censors banned anything with a hint of subversion. A black market flourished, and some of the Kurds' most popular musicians were executed, including Erdewan Zaxolî and Karim Kaban. Year 1974 saw a degree of autonomy being achieved for the Kurds, but it was short-lived. After siding with Iran during a war, many Kurds were murdered with chemical weapons by Hussein's government, and the Kurds became highly repressed until the Gulf War and US invasion of Iraq. When the Kurds restored their autonomy in 1991, they started rebuilding their region. Artists now enjoy a good support from the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Kurdish artists and writers are encouraged to move and work there.

Kurdish singers from Iraqi Kurdistan had sometimes the opportunity of performing and recording with Arab orchestras, which is the reason why Kurdish music from this part is somewhat influenced by Arabian music. Some of the best-known classical musicians of the past generations here are Tehsîn Taha, who was renowned for his beautiful voice, Ali Mardan, Karim Kaban, Eyaz Yûsif, 'Îsa Berwarî, Kawîs Axa, Shamal Sayib and violin player Dilşad.

Zakaria Abdalla and Adnan Karim have been particularly famous in pop Kurdish music.

[edit] Syrian Kurdistan

Despite the lack of any musical educational infrastructure, several famous Kurdish musicians arose from Syria.

Gerabêtê Xaço was a great classical stranbêj, Muradê Kinê (Miradko) was another great stranbêj and kemençe player. Se'îd Yûsif (known as "prince of the biziq") is acclaimed for his unparalleled virtuosity on the biziq and his authentic teqsîms and beautiful song melodies. Mihemed Şêxo was a master of symbolic nationalistic lyrics who was imprisoned several times for expressing his political opinion through his songs. Some other importent figures are Aram Tîgran, Mehmûd Ezîz - along with his brother Mihemed Elî Şakir -, Faris Bavê Fîras, Bangîn (Hikmet Cemîl), vocalist Miço Kendeş and biziq player Ehmedê Çep. Ciwan Haco has been famous in pop/Westernized Kurdish music, and "Şeyda" is locally known for his love songs.

[edit] Academic Studies of Kurdish Music

The earliest study of Kurdish music was initiated by an Armenian priest, Vartapet Komitas in 1904. The first academic center for Kurdish music was founded in Yerevan, called The Malikian School of Music, which studied the old dengbêj. Kurdish academic, Cemîla Celîl published two collections of popular Kurdish songs in 1964 and 1965. In Iraq, a center for study of Kurdish music was founded in 1958. An academic study of Kurdish music, dance and musical instruments in Hakkari was published by Dr. D. Christensen in 1963. The music of Kurdish Jews has also been studied in the 70s, and published by the Jewish Music Research Centre in Jerusalem [1].

[edit] Further reading

  • Skalla, Eva and Jemima Amiri. "Songs of the Stateless". In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 378-384. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Izady, Mehrdad. "The Kurds, a Concise Handbook", Taylor & Francis, p 256 - 268. ISBN 0-8448-1727-9.
  • Dr. D. Christensen, "Tanzlieder der Hakkari-Kurden", Eine material-kritisch Studie, in Jahrbuch für musikalische Volks-und Völker-Künde, Berlin i, pp. 11-47, 1963.
  • Edith Gerson-Kiwi, "The Music of Kurdistan Jews. A synopsis of their musical styles", in Yuval, Studies of the Jewish Music Research Centre, ii, Jerusalem 1971.
  • Vartabed Comitas, "Quelques spécimens des mélodies kurdes", in Recueil d'Emine, Moscow 1904, and re-edited in Erivan in 1959.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Middle Eastern music

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Kurdish music

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