6. The Emergence of the Koms and their Repertoire 

As stated previously, the beginning of the 1990s witnessed the rise of Kurdish protest music conducted and mainly practiced by Kurdish young people who came together at cultural centers in the metropolitan areas. These youngsters have constituted dozens of koms performing politicized folk songs and songs in Turkish translation. Kurdish popular music or the politicized folk songs re-arranged in western styles and the political compositions constitute the repertoire of the koms. The literal meaning of kom is “gathering”, “group”, and “collective”. The idea behind the establishment of these collectives was probably borrowed from the Left, either from the Turkish Left or from abroad. Koms have probably taken Inti Illimani (from Chile), Grup Yorum and Grup Kızılırmak (Two leftist music groups performing protest music in Turkey) as their role models either directly or indirectly. Although one singer would often be enough, they feel obliged to emphasize the concept of the group, as members of Grup Yorum have done. The ideal of representing unity, being 'one' and acting as a group is central to this construction of Kurdish national identity. In a show of unity, in the very first examples, the names of the bands (groups), rather than individual musicians, were given as composers.

Since many youngsters who joined the kom collectives were already leftists who, at least initially, had problems with the Turkish Left, they have tried to construct separate leftist Kurdish cultural collectives, namely ‘MKMs’, or ‘Mesopotamia Cultural Centers’, which also became institutional homes and performance venues for koms. Together with their leftist orientations, and in the light of ideas about transnational resistance mediated by Kurdish identity derived from nationalism and theorized strongly by the Kurdish intelligentsia in the Diaspora, the new kom collectives started to appear both in Turkey and in the Diaspora. Kom collectives become the carriers and agents of the ideas and practices of nationalism and the resistance struggle of the transnational imagined Kurdish community.

Important questions are raised when we stop to consider what has been achieved by this process of politicization. Let me summarize some aspects of the musical achievements of Kurdish nationalism, which appear in different media and which helped to popularize the politicized folk songs mentioned above. As an indispensable part of meetings, strikes, and struggles, music has always been part of Kurdish resistance in Turkey. It can justifiably be claimed that it made the lyrics more accessible to young Kurds, who were potential recruits to the national movement. Moreover, I should mention that the political parties had the chance to gather youngsters together in concerts and other similar events. In addition, if this politicization had not taken place, youngsters would have lost the chance of listening to nationalistic poems written by classic Kurdish poets like Cigerxwn [7] and others. Another point is that a proposed Kurdish national anthem, chosen by television executives, began to be played at the beginning and end of MED-TV’s broadcasts. This said much about how Kurdish nation building was being imagined at that moment.

I will mention below the names of some songs composed for women guerillas, generally identified by their codenames, or nicknames. Composing songs for guerillas may well have helped to recruit guerillas and support the struggle and life of a guerilla, and of course maintained solidarity. The beautiful women for whom folk songs have traditionally been written have been replaced by the guerilla women, which means that women are the ones for whom the songs are written but the songs are dedicated to those who have participated in the national struggle and who have burned themselves to death or died in the mountains. This discourse exalts the woman with whom one can fall in love, as an independent and guerilla woman. Through politicizing love and exalting women guerillas, I believe those songs might have helped Kurdish women start interrogating their identities.

It is worth exploring their repertoire in more detail. I will do this in terms of singers and particular songs.

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