Listen to Kurdish music

Ali Baran
Issa Hassan
Nefel Musik
Nilüfer Akbal
Razbar Ensemble
Shahram Nazeri
Shahram Nazeri 2
La pluie doiseaux
Ramzi Ghotbaldin
Dawrish & Rafeq
Nüvidé Altunakar Mahieu
Seyhmus Dagtekin

Dilan Dance


The Kurdish Music, by Kendal NEZAN

Musical Genres

Given the very important role of war in the life of the Kurds, epic songs are very numerous. The differentiation between the mountain and plains music can already be noted in the names given to these songs: they are called delal (beautiful) by the people of the plains and lawike siwaran (songs of cavaliers) by the mountain people. The delal, whose traditional melodic line provided the art music of the Near East with the Maqâm Kurdî Hicazkâr (equivalent of the Greek Dorian mode), is often accompanied by the tenbûr and sometimes-a relatively recent innovation-by both the tenbûr and the dûdûk (Side A, No. 8). The songs of the cavaliers have a much less regular melodic line and have more staccato and lively rhythms than those of the delal, faithfully following the story of the epic and evoking in its dramatic moments the violence of the scenes of combat.

Improvised either by dengbêj,, themselves warriors, or by women desirous of immortalising the great deeds of the event in question for the edification of future generations, these epic and war songs constitute veritable historic chronicles, in which almost all the events of local and national life are recounted.

It is through these songs that Kurdish children learn the history of their people at least that of the last two centuries. Most of them glorify those who fought courageously for freedom. Apart from these, there are also songs which tell of domestic quarrels over the possession of the best pasture lands or over the sharing of irrigation waters or which deal with the defense of family or tribal honour.

Quite apart from their informative interest concerning events of the past, these songs have the value for us of clarifying "doubtless more than those of any other genres" the mentalities, mores, values and archtypes of the different strata of Kurdish society of yesterday and today through the moral which lies permanently within the story.

The hero is the one (he or she) who knows how to make himself respected, who fights valiantly and never flees from the battlefield. An exceptional warrior-he should alone or aided by only a handful of companions, put to flight whole regiments of the enemy army-the hero is also virtuous, magnanimous towards the weak and the conquered, capable of bearing pain and anxious to conform scrupulously to a certain code of honour.

Between Jazireh and Mahabad, there exists a music which one can descril~e as funeral.

Its use remains limited; its sad melodies, played on the def-û-zirne, blûr or dûdûk-uerluane, are reserved exclusively for the funeral ceremonies of young girls and young men who have died unmarried. Some lawij, long poems sometimes of religious inspiration, are sung on such an occasion. But these lawij, filled with nostalgia and melancholy, are also sung under other circumstances as, for example, in the course of intimate evenings among close friends.

The berdolavî or' "songs of the spinning wheel", which the young girls and women hum along while spinning their yarn or weaving their rugs, are also filled with sadness and melancholy. Songs of love, intimate and unhappy, they are usually short and are sung without any sort of instrumental accompaniment. Love songs (kulamên dilan) composed mostly by women, are generally short and have a simple and totally free structure. The lyrical elan is not submitted to any constraint imposed by harmony, meter or even rhyme.

The Kurdish song evokes unhappy love frustrated by the myriad constraints imposed hy a patriarchal society. The quantity and rigidity of these constraints may also explain to some extent the enormous number of love songs in existence (in the USSR, where several Kurd colonies live, Soviet musicologists have been able to collect over a thousand).

It happens frequently that a love song was originally a simple, improvised dialogue, sung during a furtive meeting between a young man and a girl. A simple exchange of glances, a smile barely perceptible on the face of the young girl encountered at the spring, on a mountain path or on a country road, and it is the beginning of a long period of trial"composed of suffering, sacrifices and devotion" reflected in these touching songs, pressing and nostalgic appeals sent over mountains and valleys to the loved one.

The dilok or songs for dancing and entertainment, which are sung in the course of evening parties among friends or during various festivities (weddings, New Yearts, births, circumcisions, etc.) are accompanied, depending on the regions, by the blûr-dembilk, the def-û-zirne or the tenbûr-dembilk or, more simply, by handicapping or by the tenbûr.

Kurdish dances are usually mixed. According to the dance (dîlan), the men and women partners hold each other by the little finger or by the hand or still again they may place their hand on the shoulder of their male or female neighbour. The rhythm in the dilok, which is first sung by the leader and then repeated afterwards by the others, is given extra accent by the percussion (def, demloilk). All parts of the body, in principle, take part in the dance: actually, only the feet and the chest perform precise and rhythmical movements.

There is great variety in Kurdish dances, some of which are designated by the name of the region from which they come (Botanî, Derikî, Amûdî, etc.), while others may be called by the form of movements to be danced. The most widespread dance is govend, a round in which men and women, arms interlaced, perform quite complicated short steps, with very rhythmical balancing and changin of partners. There are dozens of variants, which include the sêgavî or sêpêvi (3 steps), the carpêvî (4 steps), the giranî (slow round), the xirfanî (langorous round), the tesyok also called milane, in which the partners dance shoulder to shoulder.

The dance copî, equally very widespread, includes hopping. The farandole of dancers advances and retreats, oscillating from one side to the other.

Among the rare non-mixed dances, we should mention the saber dance (dîlana sûr û mertal which is a series of exercises in agility and adroitness. This masculine dance, formerly danced frequently and much liked, is tending to disappear in our time. The same is true of the cirît,, another warrior dance which is actually the simulation of combat on horseback and plays an important part in wedding festivities.

The feqeh (theological students), who constitute a stratum of society which considers itself a shade superior to the "pagan" mass of the people, have a special dance called bêlûtê, whose origin was probably of religious inspiration.

Finally, we should not fail mention a few of the most frequently performed folk dances today in Kurdistan: bêriyo (the milk maid), tenzere,, sêxanî cacanê, siltanê, çepik, etc.

The modern repertoire of the political chanson makes use of the poems of classic authors such as Feqehe Teyran, revolutionary poet of the 14th century, and Ehmedê Xanî, of the 17th century, author of the Mem û Zîn, national Kurdish epic, as well as works by contemporary poets (Cegerxw1n, Hejar, Bekes, etc.). The political chanson, which is in fact non-anonymous sung poetry, is accompanied by the tenbûr.