5. Şiwan Perwer and the politicization of Kurdish music in Turkey


This article, as I mentioned earlier, follows the story of Kurdish popular music and the politicization of Kurdish folk songs practiced in Turkey during the 1990s, when national musicians modified the content of some folk songs and composed new political songs. Popular figures in Kurdish music, like Şiwan Perwer, Nizamettin AriÁ, and Ciwan Haco started to sing altered versions of these songs and new songs at their concerts and put such songs in their albums. All three are living in exile in European cities. Şiwan Perwer was the most political and popular figure of all, as he became the voice of the silent nation. He himself is well aware of the situation, as the title of an interview he conducted with Halil Can (published in 1991) indicates: "My music alleviates my nation's pains and sharpens their rage." This statement leads us to think about the relationship between music and politics in the case of Kurds, Şiwan Perwer and Kurdish music. Şiwan Perwer is a poet, singer and performer on the bağlama. For many years, his songs - even those about love - were banned in Iraq, Iran and Turkey because they were sung in Kurdish. Cassettes of his music were passed from hand to hand, despite the risk of imprisonment. Even today only his traditional love songs are permitted in Turkey. He had to leave Turkey for Germany in 1976, and today he lives in Sweden as a defender of the Kurds and their music. "My music is my struggle" says Şiwan Perwer, to explain the political meaning of his music (Can 1991).

On Perver’s Ya Star album he performed an important political song that was also very popular among Kurds, Ya Star (‘Oh God’). The lyrics of this song summarize the real situation Kurds who have failed to unite and to establish their own state find themselves in. He suggests reasons for the failure, mentioning debates about the cultural unity of Kurds, and the nature of the opposition that they have faced, such as the claim that they have no united language, the various states’ policy of denying the presence of the Kurds, and so forth.


Ya Star

Şivan Perwer, Ya Star, 1995


Daxwaziya me, em bibin dewlet

Dibejin hŻn nebun millet li dinyayÍ millet neman

BÍ azadÓ Ż bÍ dewlet ji bilÓ me Kurdan

Dibejin dÓroka we nÓne FarisÓ ne ErebÓ ne

Yan TirkÓ ne Ż li hevketÓne bin geha we qet Ái nÓne

Dibejin rÍziman nÓne ZazakÓ ne KurmancÓ ne

SoranÓ ne LoranÓ ne yan GorÓ ne ka Kurd ki ne?

Ne li ser yek mezheb Ż dÓne

őslamÓ ne XrÓstiyanÓ ne

ZerdŻştÓ ne YahŻdÓ ne AlawÓ ne Ż SunÓ ne.


Our wish is to establish our state.

They say you have not been a nation, there are no nations left

Without independence and a state except for the Kurds

They say that you do not have your own history you are Persian, you are Arab,

You are Turkish and you never get on well with each other

They say you do not have a language. Is it Zazaki or KurmancÓ

Or SoranÓ or LoranÓ or GorÓ, who are Kurds ?

You neither have a common religion nor a sect

There are Muslims, Christians

Zoroastrians, Jews, Alevis and Sunnis [6].


On the same album, Perwer has put a song named BrakujÓ (‘Fratricide’) to state the current situation among Kurds in the region. His point was to warn the Kurds that they should avoid fighting with their Kurdish brothers. It is important for Şiwan Perwer to include a song named as ‘Fratricide’ because, in my opinion, in Kurdish history, Kurds’ hatred of each other has played an important role in their failure to construct their own nation state. He tries to emphasize through this song that fratricide has a significant yet negative effect on Kurds.

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