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Joyce Blau l'éternelle chez les Kurdes

 | 
Hamit Bozarslan
, 
Clémence Scalbert-Yücel

Wanderings in Adalar Sahilinde

Amir Hassanpour

Texte intégral

1In my childhood, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, in Mahabad, a Kurdish city in Iran, I loved to hear a song played on gramophone in teahouses. Teahouses (çayxane, called more often qawexane, « coffee-house ») were spaces of adult men. A child could show up only in the company of an adult. There were many teahouses in town. I would hear the song as a passerby, especially in the summer when doors and windows were open. My father’s shop, which I used to frequent, was near two teahouses in Meydanî Ardî (Flour Square), where grains, dairy products and other commodities from neighbouring villages were traded.

  • 1 It is similar to psaltery, a member of the zither or harp family.

2The singer was Mela Kerîm and the song is known by the first two words of the lyrics, « Ke deĺên emřo deşt û kêw şîne », which means, « When they say plains and mountains are green today. » I loved the song, its melody, lyrics, and outstanding playing of the stringed instrument, qanun,1 which breathed life into the singing.

3At the time, the only sources for recorded music were the gramophone and radio. Although our family was, to use an imprecise term, upper middle class, we did not have either a radio set until about 1954 or a gramophone until the early 1960s. This was the norm. We could listen to music in teahouses, weddings, family gatherings, picnics, or simply engage in singing in any appropriate context. The schools, primary and secondary, did not offer music courses, though we were taught how to sing the national anthem and other official songs. After we bought a radio set, access to Kurdish music did not improve much because broadcasting in Kurdish was not allowed in Iran, Turkey or Syria. The two-hour long Kurdish program of Radio Baghdad was the only station with Kurdish music and, as of 1954, the much shorter program of Radio Yerevan in neighbouring Soviet Armenia was the other source of broadcast music.

  • 2 Side A is OMD 249, N11007 and side B is DM252, N11007, according to info in Kemaĺ Re’ûf Miĥemed, «  (...)
  • 3 See https://www.kamkars.net/.

4Radio Baghdad did not play my favourite song because it had been, I found out later, recorded not by the station but by one of the record companies in Baghdad in the 1930s. This was, in part, for copyright reasons. In fact, the station had only two songs by this singer who had 18 songs on records. The singer, born in 1885, was from my hometown Mahabad (formerly Sawj Bulaq or Sablagh) and had resettled in Silemani (Sulaimaniya), then in Ottoman or western part of Kurdistan, around 1901. He had been to Baghdad twice in 1927-28 in order to sing for Western gramophone and record companies interested in expanding their presence in the emerging music market of the region. The song was recorded by His Master’s Voice (Abu Kalb, in Arabic) in Baghdad. It consisted of a maqam, Eto bûy leylekey esĺî (You were the original [real] Layla) and a beste, Ke deĺên emřo deşt û kêw şîne...2 Interestingly, I never heard anyone improvising it. It was not the right music for weddings in which dance songs were more appropriate. Much later in the 1970s, Mazhar Khaliqi, a singer from Saqqiz, Iranian Kurdistan, and the Kamkar Music Band performed the song.3

5Mahabad is a Kurdish city incorporated by the Qajar monarchy into the province of Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran in the nineteenth century. While predominantly Kurdish, there were a few hundred Azerbaijani Turks, Armenians, Assyrians and Jews before WWI. The Armenian and Assyrian populations were much larger and some lived in villages. Although the Armenians and Jews had left by the early 1970s, the Jewish and Armenian neighbourhoods (geřekî hermenyan, geřekî cûlekan) retained their names. The town’s Armenian church was destroyed during WWI when the area had turned into a « theatre of war » between the Ottoman and Russian troops. In spite of this ethnic-linguistic diversity, it was not easy to hear non-Kurdish music, except Persian music which was broadcast by Radio Iran. I never heard a non-Kurdish version of the song, and was sure this was a Kurdish melody.

6In the late 1960s, I had access to a volume of Gelawêj (Sirius), the celebrated Kurdish literary magazine, which had been published in Iraq between 1939 and 1949. It was illegal to possess or read any Kurdish written or print material in Iran under the Pahlavi monarchy, but we were able, once in a while, to get a book or magazine clandestinely through friends and acquaintances. While reading, I came across the lyrics of the song, which the magazine said was written by Pîremêrd (1867-1950), well-known Kurdish journalist and poet, living in Iraqi Kurdistan. A short note at the top of the poem said, « To the tune of the Ottoman song Adeler Sahilinde » (On islands’ shores, Turkish name of the song). For me this was no less than a shock: how could such a clearly Kurdish song be Ottoman Turkish? By this time, I knew through reading two Kurdish books (Mêjûy Edebî Kurdî, History of Kurdish Literature, and Yadî Pîremêrd, In Memory of Pîremêrd) that the poet was a citizen of the Ottoman Empire before its disintegration in the course of WWI. As of 1918, his hometown fell within the borders of the new state, Iraq, that Britain carved out of three southeastern Ottoman provinces it had conquered in 1917. It is thus no surprise that Pîremêrd would write the lyrics for a Kurdish version of Adalar Sahilinde.

7In about 1966, an acquaintance in Mahabad showed me a fresh-looking copy of the old record (12 inches/30 cm.) available for purchase for fifty tomans (about $ 7.00). Although I was earning a salary then I could not afford it at the moment. About a year later, I heard Mela Karîm’s song played in a teahouse close to the office where I was working. I rushed down to the teahouse to find out how they got the record. It was a 7-inch/17.5 cm. disc produced in Iran, and now available for purchase.

8When we moved to Canada two decades later, my partner and I found new friends in Toronto, including a couple, one George Sawa,4 an Egyptian musician, who had written his doctoral dissertation on classical Arabic music in 1983, and was performing a number of instruments including his favourite qanun, the other, Susan, also a student and performer of Arabic songs. When we invited them for dinner, Dr. Sawa said that he would bring his qanun and play it. It occurred to me that I could surprise him by playing Mela Kerîm’s song on a cassette player. When I pushed the button on the tape recorder and the song began with qanun, it took him only a few seconds to jump and scream, « Allah! Allah! This is my favourite Arabic song! » The melody was apparently more striking than the accompanying instrument. I now understood that the Kurdish song was not only Turkish but also Arabic.

9Spending the summer of 2012 in Istanbul, I told this story to a number of newly acquired friends, students, faculty members of Boğaziçi University and others to find out about the contemporary life of the song. After singing part of the Kurdish song, I asked them if they could recognize the melody. They did, and two persons improvised it. Many knew it as Ada Sahillerinde, « on island shores ». When I checked Internet sources and CDs, it became clear that almost a century after the production of the Kurdish version, the Turkish song continues to be sung by many performers including Turkey’s Kurdish singers Ahmet Kaya (1957-2000) and İbrahim Tatlıses.5 One of the students in Boğaziçi University found out, in an Internet search, that the song may have been composed by either Yesâri Âsım Arsoy (1900-1992) born in Drama, now in Greece, or Hafız Şaşı Osman Efendi (1867-1932) of Mosul, now in Iraq.6

10My Internet search revealed much about the song and the politics of its appropriation by listeners from various national or ethnic backgrounds. It is obvious that the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent fragmentation of its multilingual, multi-ethnic population into different (nation-)states, as well as the 1915 genocide of the Armenian people, have shaped the diffusion of the song and its identity.

11To begin with, Kurds are no longer aware that the Kurdish song was adapted from Turkish, and some think that the Kurdish version is borrowed from the Arabic. For instance, Mihemmed Hajou, identifying himself as a Kurdish « oud player » from Syria, has uploaded his instrumental performance of the melody and identifies it as Ka Dalen Amro traditional Kurdish song based on an Arabic style ﺍﻠﻤﻳﺎﺲ ﻘﺪﻚ, qadduk al-mayyas (Your gait, loftily, proudly walking).7 This genealogical claim is apparently rooted in the dominant position of Arabic music in Iraq and Syria. It reveals the extent of separation of the Kurds and Arabs of Syria from neighbouring Turkey even in the age of the Internet and more relaxed border crossing. It seems that eight decades of the transformation of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire into the Republic of Turkey, the construction of the ethnic Turkish nation, and the disruption of linguistic and cultural ties among the peoples of the fallen empire have recast the hierarchies of power in music. In Iran and Turkey, where Kurdish music was suppressed as a matter of state policy, relations among these music cultures are even more complicated. Strange to say, none of Mela Kerîm’s songs is available on the Internet, whether YouTube or Kurdish music websites, which provide a sizeable quantity of the art of the past and present. According to haseraka40, apparently a Kurdish commentator on İbrahim Tatlıses’ performance of the Turkish version: « It is Kurdish song to [by] MAZHARE XALEQI. »8 Xaleqi (Khaleqi) is a Kurdish singer from Iran.

12On YouTube, there are no less than a dozen Arabic variants, old and new, and from different Arab majority countries, where it is known as ﺍﻠﻤﻳﺎﺲ ﻘﺪﻚ, words taken from the first line of the lyrics.9 Much like the Kurdish context, knowledge about the Turkish origins of the piece is quite limited although one YouTube Arabic version sung by Asala Nasri, uploaded by apparently a Turkish fan, carries in the title Arapça Ada Sahilleri, i.e., Arabic language Ada Sahilleri.10

13While there can be no doubt about the Turkish origins of the Kurdish song, its Turkish identity is contested when the Greek version enters the stage. In May 2008, a Greek YouTube uploader, romeikos2, provided the Turkish and Greek versions from records produced in the 1920s and 1930s, and identified the song (34,518 listeners as of September 15, 2012) as:

A well known tune in Turkey and also known in Greece and in Syria – supposedly originally from Allepo. This Turkish version is recorded by Bursa born Greek, Achilleas Poulos in the US; while the Istanbul Greek Adonis Dalgas and the Izmir born Yiorghos Vidalis perform among the earlier Greek versions. The tune became very popular on [in] Crete, originally associated with a type of urban song centered on the town of Rethymnon, whose most important practictioner was Stelios Foustaleris.11

14Commentators on this upload (20 as of September 15, 2012), mostly writing in Turkish, highly appreciate the songs. One of them, dontfascisizeme, says

this song is another proof for our [Greek and Turkish] brotherhood nothing else is left to say …

15Then, anadolulu writes:

I wonder, why no kurd says this song is originally kurdish, hahahahah stupid people.

16Another version uploaded on January 31, 2008, sung by Turkish singer Hamiyet Yüceses, has attracted more listeners (168,289 on 15 September 2012) with more comments (46).12 One, kotancan11, writing in English and German, rejects the idea of originality but considers the song « as part of the Turkish culture »:

there is no such a thing like « original »… there are versions in different languages, however the sound/tone is obviously arabic (!!!), it is called « hicaz » since Ottoman times…nichtsdestotrotz: es ist teil der türkischen kultur, wir sehen darin nichts aber rein gar nichtsgrie chisches… (nonetheless, it is something that belongs to Turkish culture; we see in it nothing really absolutely nothing that is Greek…)

17Another, Varangian1915, apparently an Armenian name, says:

u [You] can thank the Christians for composing it.

18And this leads to a conflict over Christian and Turkish relations. One commentator, akilvarmantikvar, responds:

thank you christians for composing it. Now put that stick out of your ass and enjoy the music.

19Shocktauma13 writes:

I know matia mou also..this is a song from Constantinapolis..its been sung by Ottomans there are greek, turkish, bosnian, albanian, armenian versions of it therefore… [end of comment]

20Another, ahmetepik, writing in Turkish, says that this is the « original (aslı) song of Syria… at least a thousand years old. » Sometimes comments take a racist turn, usually against the Turks or the Greeks.

  • 13 The song is titled In Damascus, in Marcel Khalifé and Mahmoud Darwish, Fall of the Moon, CD produce (...)

21Leaving Istanbul in a long flight to Toronto in August 2012, I spent much of the ten hours listening to the music provided to passengers by Turkish Airlines on the occasion of the company’s 75th anniversary. Part of this repertoire was from songs on a CD put together by Fikret Erkaya and Suat Sayin, Songs of Istanbul/İstanbul Şarkıları, vol. I. One of the songs is Ada Sahillerinde with a note, « Söz & Müsik: Anonim » (Lyrics & music: Anonymous). However, those who have packaged the music for the airline company have not included any pieces from the non-Turkish music of Turkey. Remembering the time when I could listen to my favourite song only when I happened to be in the vicinity of a teahouse, and only if the gramophone happened to be playing it, I could only appreciate my unlimited access to its Turkish variant while flying between continents. It seems, however, that the revolutionary advances in the production, distribution, and reception of music have not radically changed its politics. Before long, I found out that Adalar Sahilinde appears now as an Arabic melody with new lyrics and without any reference to qadduk al-mayyas. The Lebanese singer Marcel Khalifé has sung one of the poems of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and it is also performed by other singers.13

  • 14 See, for instance, names of the dengbêj (singers, bards), in O.C. Celîlov (2003): Stranê K’urdaye T (...)
  • 15 See, among others, Yona Sabar, The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews: An Anthology, New Haven, (...)
  • 16 O.C. Celîlov, op. cit., p. 429-43 and 491-95.
  • 17 For Armenian versions, see, among others, Hovannes Shiraz, Siamant'o ev Khjezare, Erevan, Sovetakan (...)
  • 18 See, for a brief account and references, Hassanpour, Amir (1985): « Dimdim, » Encyclopaedia Iranica(...)
  • 19 А. Джнди (1985): « Армянские варианты курдского эпоса ‘Дым-Дым’, » Страны и Народы Ближнего и Средн (...)

22In sharp contrast with the nationalists’ search for purity, singers and composers in pre-nationalist era not only borrowed from different music cultures but also created works in languages other than their native tongue. In fact, a considerable portion of Kurdish oral literature and folk music collected and published in the Soviet Union came from the mouth of Armenian performers.14 The Kurdistani Jews (Iraq), both rural and urban, also used their own Neo-Aramaic language, Kurdish and Arabic.15 Even more significant is the existence of Kurdish songs about « the oppression of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire » as well as the « struggle of Assyrians » against this state.16 While Armenians and Kurds are visibly different in religion and language, it is difficult to determine whether, for instance, the ballad of Khaj and Siyamend is Armenian or Kurdish.17 To give another example, there is a story about the offensive of the army of Shah Abbas, king of Iran’s Safavid dynasty, on Fortress Dimidm, and the massacre of the Kurds of Biradost principality and the enslavement of their women. In his eyewitness account, the Shah’s official chronicler presents the siege and the battle, lasting from November 1609 to the summer 1610, as a consequence of Kurdish mutiny and treason. Kurdish oral tradition, literature and histories, in contrast, treat it as the struggle of the Kurds against foreign domination.18 An Armenian version of this markedly Kurdish experience also exists.19

  • 20 See, among others, the posing of the problem in an interview with Ferheng Ghefûr (March 20, 2008): (...)

23The nationalist appropriation of music is, however, ubiquitous. Not only songs, their lyrics and melodies, but also instruments and singers turn into sites of nation-building under conditions of statelessness. As for instruments, nationalists try to claim one or more instruments as belonging to or even having originated in their nation even though the non-Western instruments in use in the region predate the formation of nations. To cite one example from the Kurdish case, the instruments used in the ritual music of Kurdish religions, Yazidism (def, « frame drum » and ney or şebbabe, « flute ») and Ahl-e Haqq (tembûr, « long-necked lute »), are treated as Kurdish.20

  • 21 See, Hassanpour, Amir and Blum, Stephen (2000): « Mamilî, Mihammad, » The New Grove Dictionary of M (...)
  • 22 See Dieter Christensen’s notes in Folkway Records (1965): Kurdish Folk Music from Western Iran, Eth (...)

24Moving from melodies and instruments to singers, I recount another story of my encounters with nationalism and music. It was not long before I said farewell to my nationalist thinking and politics (1963) when I heard a friend complaining about the way Mihemed Mamilî,21 the prominent Kurdish singer in my hometown, composed his new songs: he would listen, according to my friend, to Radio Baku first, learn an Azerbaijani melody, add Kurdish lyrics, and present it as a Kurdish song. Mamilî used to perform a couple of new songs every year during the season of wedding celebrations in the summer. At the time, the broadcasting station of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan was a major source for Azerbaijani Turkish music. In one wedding, I asked Mamilî why he was borrowing Turkish melodies instead of composing Kurdish songs. He responded, « Look, I have revived (zîndûm kirdotewe) many old Kurdish songs, so what (qeydê çi deka) if I borrow Turkish tunes? » While I did not appreciate the answer at the time, I realized later that, although Mamilî was also a Kurdish nationalist, his horizons, especially as a musician, were much broader than mine. In fact, in the 1960s and 1970s, the main instrumentalist accompanying his singing, Askar Tarzan, was an Azerbaijani Turk playing tar, « long-necked lute ».22

  • 23 Videotaped interview in Kurdish in my possession (from the late 90s). See, also, an interview with (...)

25This craze for purity or authenticity was at odds with the musical life of the Kurds and neighbouring peoples both in the pre-nationalist past and the nationalist present. I will point to two moments in this history. At about this time, i.e., the early 1960s, Aram Tigran (1934-2009), a young Armenian singer born in the Kurdish town of Qamishli in Syria and on the Syria-Turkey border, decided to resettle in Armenia. When he was leaving, his father told him never to forget the Kurds.23 Aram worked in Radio Yerevan and devoted much of his singing to Kurdish songs. Aram sang in Kurdish, Armenian and Arabic. Before he passed away in 2009, he stated the wish to be buried in Diyarbakır, the major city in Turkey’s Kurdistan, a request rejected by the Turkish government. Diyarbakır has been, in its long history, the home of many peoples including Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Kurds and Turks. It is full of mosques as well as ruined and surviving Armenian and Assyrian churches.

  • 24 Amnon Shiloah (1980): « Kurdish music, » The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 10, (...)
  • 25 Archimandrite Comitas (1903): K’rdakan eghanakner/Mélodies kurdes recueillies par Archimandrite Com (...)
  • 26 Michael Church (April 21, 2011): « Komitas Vardapet, forgotten folk hero, » The Guardian, https://w (...)
  • 27 Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian (2010): Archeology of Madness: Komitas, Portrait of An Armenian Icon, Seco (...)
  • 28 Ibid.

26While singing and songs were of diverse origins, their performance and reception as well as the study of music were no different. The study of Kurdish music, still in its infancy today, was begun by an Armenian priest, Komitas (Gomidas, Comitas) Vartabed (1865-1935). His first work was, according to an article in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, a dissertation with the title « Kurdische Musik (diss., U of Berlin, 1899). »24 Another work, Mélodies kurdes (1903), is the first monographic publication on Kurdish music.25 Moreover, he collected some 3,000 Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish, Persian and Georgian songs. According to one account, he refused to « recognize any divide between the folk musics of Turkey and Armenia » and « showed a way in which the antagonism between the two could be dissolved. »26 Komitas was a target of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Although he survived until 1935, he had lost his mental health.27 According to another source, Vrej Nersessian, « Komitas’s real tragedy was the loss of his research. His will was broken. »28

27The Armenian Genocide radically changed the demographic map of the country and its musical culture. Armenians and Assyrians, who had lived in their ancient homeland together with Kurds, Turks and Jews, were virtually wiped out. Soon, the successor of the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey, banned the music of non-Turkish peoples. Turkish music became a venue for the nation-building and state-building projects of Kemalist nationalism. The elimination of the Assyrian and Armenian peoples restricted their cultural contact with the remaining population of the Kurds and Turks. And the criminalization of Kurdish culture created antagonism between Turkish and Kurdish peoples and their cultures. Kurds were forcibly assimilated into the official language and culture. The picture is, however, more complex.

28Recently, the Ottoman Empire has been romanticized as a state that tolerated religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity, as well as local self-rule. There is considerable interest in blending the Ottoman past and republican present in the form of an Ottoman-Islamic or Ottoman-Turkish synthesis, and using Ottoman Empire as a model for managing the mosaic of peoples and cultures in the region.

  • 29 See, Robert Dankoff (ed.), Evliya Çelebi in Bitlis, Leiden, Brill, 1999, p. 283-99. See, also, Armé (...)

29The Ottoman Empire was not, however, unique among other empires insofar as they were all unable to centralize state power. These states, emerging and surviving on the basis of the feudal socio-economic system, did not afford an elaborate military and civil administration beyond the capital city and its environs. Feudal « disunity » or « fragmentation » shaped all aspects of life from China and Japan to England and Spain. This disunity was sustained by a self-sufficient agrarian economy with a predominantly peasant population tied to the land. Much like political power, cultural life, including music, was fragmented, although music and other cultural forms did cross local frontiers. This explains why, until the mid-19th century, the Ottoman state could not overthrow the principalities in Kurdistan or the Arabian Peninsula, although the sultans had tried to do so throughout the centuries. Unlike the Turkish Republic, which legally and ideologically criminalized non-Turkish musics and languages, the Ottoman state before the Tanzimat era (1839-78, the « modernization » of the feudal state structure) could not even imagine the banning of music, language and costume in Kurdistan. Even if such a policy could be contemplated, the state had no means to enforce it throughout all its territories. The Ottoman army’s ransacking of the excellent library of Bidlis principality in 1655, graphically narrated by eyewitness Evliya Çelebi, was an act of looting rather than a politically and ideologically motivated destruction of the cultural or literary traditions of the Kurds.29

  • 30 On the question of statelessness and music, see Stephen Blum and Amir Hassanpour, « “The morning of (...)
  • 31 The music of non-Turkish peoples, including Kurds, is now tolerated in Turkey, a situation which ha (...)

30The « tolerance » of the feudal state had, thus, nothing to do with multiculturalism, internationalism, or the absence of ethnic prejudice. Whenever the landed ruling class and its state left ordinary people alone, there was rarely any war between those split by cleavages of culture, ethnicity and religion. I have heard stories of Muslim Kurdish villagers, in pre-WWI years, praying in Christian shrines at times of suffering. Still, the history of the region is full of stories about attacks on Yezidis, Jews, Christians and other minorities. Ethnic prejudice predates nationalism, but nationalist politics turns ethnic differences into political, theoretical and ideological projects of nation-building, and the state, built on these projects, is given the role of guardian and executor. No doubt, nationalism in power is not on equal footing with the nationalism of a suppressed or stateless people.30 The nation-states in West Asia have violently suppressed Kurdish music and language while Kurds have resisted this repression by promoting their music and language.31

  • 32 On the complexity of identifying the ethnic element in the forms and genres of music, see Dieter Ch (...)
  • 33 Ayako Tatsumura, « Music and culture of the Kurds, » Senri Ethnological Studies, 5, 1980, p. 75-93.
  • 34 See Dieter Christensen, « Music in Kurdish identity formations, » in Conference on Music in the Wor (...)

31I am not suggesting that nations, peoples, tribes, regions, religions or genders do not or should not produce their own specific melodies, rhythms, styles, forms, genres, instruments, etc.32 It is obvious that the music heritage of the world is as colourful as the mosaic of peoples. In fact, one study of Kurdish music has noted its distinctiveness among the music cultures of West Asia.33 Others have identified even « pan-Kurdish musical forms » in this politically and geographically divided and stateless nation.34 And I have no doubt that the universality of music, the fact that all human societies have music, is comprehensible only in the recognition of its particularities. Dialectically speaking, universals and particulars form a unity and struggle of opposites. The problem I have been raising is the way nationalism, both as political ideology and social movement, appropriates the art and turns it into a site of national conflicts. The particularity of music is turned into a question of nationhood, and its projects range from survival to aggression, ethnocide or, more precisely, musicide. I have tried to show that there was no basis, other than nationalism, for antagonism between the music and music publics of Turks and other peoples of (Ottoman) Turkey. There was, in fact, considerable convergence or sameness to the extent that the listening publics were not conscious of ethnic or national origins of the music they appreciated. Nationalism tries to blow up these differences and divide the listening public along ethnic lines. The problem is nationalist rather than national music.

  • 35 Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, translated by Martin Nicol (...)

32However, nationalism, whether of the oppressor or oppressed nations, does come with its nemesis, internationalism. The two remain in a situation of perpetual conflict. At present, nationalism is dominant everywhere. While theories of globalization, « transnationalism, » « cosmopolitanism, » or « postnationalism » proclaim the erosion of borders and the withering away of nations, the nation and its ideologies continue to be reproduced in music as in other realms of life. One powerful dynamic of erosion of borders is the unceasing revolution in communication technologies, which offers music publics much to celebrate. We are in a situation of « annihilation of space by time » as Marx observed some 160 years ago at the end of the Industrial Revolution.35 Censorship, the way it was carried out in Turkey by criminalizing the possession of recorded music, is no longer possible. However, musics, like individuals, languages and cultures, are not equal. The state and the market both act as hegemonic forces in (re-)producing inequality of musics, and none of them works in favour of stateless musics. Even musics with states are not equal because nation-states remain unequal. At this point, Kurdish music is rising from the ashes of musicide. Technologies of music and language unite as well as divide a nation fragmented by international borders. However, Kurdish music can be both nationalist and internationalist, but this will not happen spontaneously.

33The preliminaries for internationalism, as politics and way of life, are at hand – a world economy, the shrinking of space, theoretical advances, extensive practice, the formation of a worldwide class of workers and urban poor, and the desire of peoples to overcome national, ethnic and religious divisions. However, displacing nationalism calls for serious departures from the now antiquated form of organizing human societies – the nation(-state). This rupture demands rising against the current. It is, thus, not surprising that a handful of extremist Assyrian and Kurdish nationalists have turned YouTube into a site of hatred in their « historical » mystifications.36 The Internet does, of course, offer a few Kurdish variants of the most international(ist) of all songs, l’Internationale, although it is never broadcast on mainstream radio and television in Kurdistan and neighbouring countries.37

Notes

1 It is similar to psaltery, a member of the zither or harp family.

2 Side A is OMD 249, N11007 and side B is DM252, N11007, according to info in Kemaĺ Re’ûf Miĥemed, « Qewanekanî Mela Kerîm… » (The records of Mela Kerîm…), Hawkarî, No. 496, October 15, 1979, p. 2.

3 See https://www.kamkars.net/.

4 See the website of Dr. George Dimitri Sawa at https://www.georgedimitrisawa.com/.

5 Listen, for instance, to Ibrahim Tatlıses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK3X7U1ovRg; Ahmet Kaya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dySoik0yzVk; Sertab Erener https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xo56yl_cumhur-kaplan-ada-sahilleri-flash-tv_music; Necmi Rıza Ahıskan https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xikcw7_necmi-ryza-ahyskan-ada-sahilleri_music; Orhan Sandıkcı https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3IVEVu5lvw.

6 See https://www.edebiyatkultur.com/index.php/turk-musikisi/59-turk-musikisi/276-hafiz-sasi-osman-efendi.

7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbWBegmppOk. All Internet sources were accessed/available on September 15, 2012. Written texts quoted from YouTube are quoted as they appear in the original with many spelling and punctuation errors.

8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLi3p9WhnkA [Editor’s note this media is no longer available]. For Mazhar Xaleqi’s song, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a4w ONEYZPU&feature=related.

9 Listen, for instance to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrZN_fi9v7U&feature=related and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrZN_fi9v7U&feature=related. For notation, lyrics, and transliteration, see https://www.forumalev.net/sarki-notalari/451328-ada-sahilleri-arapca-notasi.html and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gS-eopkGco.

10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmU9E7vUI-w.

11 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY9R9m6sz5o.

12 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pw-2Ns0_RyY.

13 The song is titled In Damascus, in Marcel Khalifé and Mahmoud Darwish, Fall of the Moon, CD produced and published by Nagam Records, 2012. There are many uploads of the song also entitled Fi Demashq (In Damascus); one uploaded by etaqo, treats it as a genre of « folklore » (ألحان: فلكلور). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl0gXngMbrQ (accessed 31 October 2012).

14 See, for instance, names of the dengbêj (singers, bards), in O.C. Celîlov (2003): Stranê K’urdaye T’arîqîyê, Sankt-Pêtêrbûrg, r. 783. This is a revised and expanded version of an earlier book published in Erevan in 1975.

15 See, among others, Yona Sabar, The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews: An Anthology, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1982, p. xxxviii.

16 O.C. Celîlov, op. cit., p. 429-43 and 491-95.

17 For Armenian versions, see, among others, Hovannes Shiraz, Siamant'o ev Khjezare, Erevan, Sovetakan Grogh Hratarakch’ut’yun, 1979; Murat Manukean, Siamant'o ew Khĕchē-Zarē, Erusaghēm, Tp. Srbots' Hakobeants', 1970.

18 See, for a brief account and references, Hassanpour, Amir (1985): « Dimdim, » Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. VII, p. 404-405; also, Thomas Bois (2003-2004): « La forteresse de Dimdim ou l’épopée héroïque de Khan-Au-Bras-d’or, » The Journal of Kurdish Studies 5, p. 1-18.

19 А. Джнди (1985): « Армянские варианты курдского эпоса ‘Дым-Дым’, » Страны и Народы Ближнего и Среднего Востока, XIII, Курдоведение, Ереван, Издательство АН Армянской ССР, p. 174-82.

20 See, among others, the posing of the problem in an interview with Ferheng Ghefûr (March 20, 2008): « Aya morkî kurdî le mosîqay emřomanda heye? (Is there Kurdish imprint on our music today?), » Xebat 2091, p. 8. For a very brief note on Yezidi and Ahl-e Haqq music, see Stephen Blum, Dieter Christensen and Amnon Shiloah (2000): « Kurdish music, » The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition, Vol. 14, p. 40. For information on Yezidi musical instruments see Scheherezade Q. Hassan (1976): « Les instruments de musique chez les Yézidis de l’Irak, » Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 8, p. 53-72. On the music of the Ahl-e Haqq, see Partow Hooshmandrad (2004): Performing the Belief: Sacred Musical Practice of the Kurdish Ahl-I Haqq of Gūrān, Ph.D thesis, University of California at Berkeley.

21 See, Hassanpour, Amir and Blum, Stephen (2000): « Mamilî, Mihammad, » The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition, Vol. 15, p. 718.

22 See Dieter Christensen’s notes in Folkway Records (1965): Kurdish Folk Music from Western Iran, Ethnic Folkways Library PE 4103, p. 8-9.

23 Videotaped interview in Kurdish in my possession (from the late 90s). See, also, an interview with him in June 2006 at https://www.ezdixan.com/content/view/201/71/ [Editor’s note: the media is no longer available].

24 Amnon Shiloah (1980): « Kurdish music, » The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 10, p. 314-18.

25 Archimandrite Comitas (1903): K’rdakan eghanakner/Mélodies kurdes recueillies par Archimandrite Comitas, Moscow, reprinted in 1982 Venezia, Istituto per la diffusione delle conoscenze sulle cultur minoritarie.

26 Michael Church (April 21, 2011): « Komitas Vardapet, forgotten folk hero, » The Guardian, https://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/apr/21/komitas-vardapet-folk-music-armenia.

27 Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian (2010): Archeology of Madness: Komitas, Portrait of An Armenian Icon, Second edition, Princeton, Gomidas Institute, 2001; and Aram Andonian, Exile, Trauma and Death: On the Road to Chankiri with Komitas Vartabed, translated from Armenian by Rita Soulahian Kuyumijan, London, Tekeyan Cultural Association, printed at Taderon Press.

28 Ibid.

29 See, Robert Dankoff (ed.), Evliya Çelebi in Bitlis, Leiden, Brill, 1999, p. 283-99. See, also, Arménag Sakisian, « Abdal Khan seigneur kurde de Bitlis au XVIIe siècle et ses trésors, » Journal Asiatique CCXXIX, avril-juin 1937, p. 252-70.

30 On the question of statelessness and music, see Stephen Blum and Amir Hassanpour, « “The morning of freedom rose up”: Kurdish popular song and the exigencies of cultural survival, » Popular Music, Vol. 15/3, 1996, p. 325-43. DOI: 10.1017/S026114300000831X.

31 The music of non-Turkish peoples, including Kurds, is now tolerated in Turkey, a situation which has opened new spaces and more complex relations between the Kurds and the state as well as the various musical cultures of the country, and the Kurdish diaspora. For an excellent study, see Clémence Scalbert Yücel, « The invention of a tradition: Diyarbakır’s Dengbêj Project, » European Journal of Turkish Studies, No. 10, 2009. URL: https://ejts.revues.org/4055.

32 On the complexity of identifying the ethnic element in the forms and genres of music, see Dieter Christensen, « What is Kurdish about the makam kürdi, » Proceedings of International Musicological Symposium “Space and Mugham. Baku, Şarq-Qarb, 2009, p. 107-11.

33 Ayako Tatsumura, « Music and culture of the Kurds, » Senri Ethnological Studies, 5, 1980, p. 75-93.

34 See Dieter Christensen, « Music in Kurdish identity formations, » in Conference on Music in the World of Islam, Asilah, 8-13 August 2007 in https://www.mcm.asso.fr/site02/music-w-islam/articles/ChristensenKurds-2007.pdf.

35 Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, translated by Martin Nicolaus, New York, Vintage Books, 1973, p. 524.

36 See, for instance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRTJyEqBKCI, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c662wUtyTI, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utA3sgec_Eo, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDHbqf2JEow, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRpbVUzSU9I&feature=related.

37 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3RMIdzBr9s.

Auteur

Université de Toronto

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