3. Collections of notations and recordings of Kurdish music

Today, we have collections of Kurdish music notations published in Armenia (by Celil 1973 and 1986), in Iran (by Hâj-Amini 2002), Turkish Kurdistan (by Çelik 2005) and Iraqi Kurdistan (by Said 2004). Celil’s and Hâj-Amini’s collections are ethnographic works including notations of indigenous Kurdish genres. Those collections may serve as guides and reference books in which one can find notations of folk genres. The work of Çelik and Said comprises collections of Kurdish folk music and some arrangements. The interesting aspect of both Çelik’s and Said’s books is that they represent the new musical arrangements of folk songs by various koms [musical groups] and Kurdish musicians like Şiwan Perwer and Civan Haco. In Çelik’s Stranen Kurdî (Songs of Kurds) the songs, many of which are anonymous, are actually notated just as koms have arranged them on their albums.


In fact it would more appropriate to call them Stranen Koms (Songs of the Koms) instead of Stranen Kurdî. The presence of these arrangements in the collections (usually before the anonymous folk songs), naturally affects the way the folk songs are to be experienced and understood, exposing a variety of musical issues that need to be thought through by the people who re-interpret the music. A foreigner or a novice willing to learn the lyrics and melodies of Kurdish folk music and to perform it will probably use these recent collections, obviously not Iranian or Russian ones, as reference guides, which contain (unfortunately or otherwise) some western-imitated and/or jazzy passages, and chord progressions and arrangements made by koms with little evidence of sustained or sensitive engagement with the original folk melodies. The style notated in these collections will probably diminish the possibilities of interpretation and re-interpretation of Kurdish folk songs by other people and musicians who do not have and will not have opportunities to listen to the indigenous versions of them. This is true for almost all Kurdish folk music traditions. The release of archival recordings of performances from the early twentieth century has provided many musicians with materials for the reproduction of indigenous music pieces. For Kurdish musicians this is a very new phenomenon. Koms, for example, have arranged all Kurdish folk music pieces based on the old home recordings of dengbejs (‘bards’) and women, or private copies of the recordings broadcast by radios in Armenia, Iraq and Iran.


Among important recordings of Kurdish music, a recent one released by Kalan Müzik [4] in Turkey is called Traditional Music of Hakkari and is a compilation of different recordings made mainly among members of the Pînyanîsî tribe of Hakkari. Despite the lack of representation of the other tribes of Hakkari, the CD is a satisfactory source enabling listeners to understand the diversity of the music culture of Hakkari region. Apart from Kalan Müzik, KOM Müzik, established in 1997 and located in Istanbul, is another important company that publishes only Kurdish music albums. The company reissues the recordings made by Yerevan Radio during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. KOM also releases many albums of koms either Turkey or from the Diaspora, and reissues many Kurdish singers from Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan. Besides its intense focus on archival products, the last albums the company produced, called Sahiya Stranan 1 & 2, contain only the Turkified Kurdish folk songs performed in their original language. By Turkification I mean that the lyrics of Kurdish folk songs were transformed into Turkish lyrics by TRT officials, musicians and collectors. That is, Kurdish lyrics of the indigenous songs were replaced by some Turkish ones, which had been the case for many Kurdish, Greek and Armenian folk songs performed in Turkish language sometimes with very absurd lyrics (see Stokes 1992 and Bayrak 2002). Hence, in Sahiya Stranan, the Turkified Kurdish folk songs were performed in their original language, which is Kurdish. The album that made me familiar with music of the Ahl-i Haqq religion (a Kurdish religion from Iranian Kurdistan, also known as Yarsan) is Razbar’s album, Chants Sacrés Kurdes, which is based on the repertoire of Ahl-i Haqq rituals. Another important album is Şiwan Perwer’s Chants du Kurdistan, which is widely known by the World Music audience and by Kurdish music lovers.

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