The Independent Gateway to Kurdish News and Analyses


Past, Present and Future of Kurdish Music


Kurdish Herald Vol. 1 Issue 1, May 2009 - by Natsumi Ajiki


The roots of Mr. Aksoy's dedication to music lies in his early childhood when his father began teaching him the art of baglama, an instrument of special symbolic importance for the Kurdish Alevi minority in Turkey. Born and raised near Antakya, Turkey where Kurds, Arabs, Turks, Assyrians and Jews lived, Mr. Aksoy developed an interest in the multi-ethnic traditions. He became a member of the band Kardes Türküler (Ballads of Fraternity) from 1995 to 2003 as an arranger, composer and performer. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Ethnomusicology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.


Ethnomusicology, according to Mr. Aksoy, looks at music from an anthropological perspective to understand the music in its social and cultural context, taking into account music’s forms of expressions, the settings, the interactions, instruments, musical practices and rituals.


Mr. Aksoy’s PhD dissertation deals with Kurdish musicians who are political exiles in Europe, and their political activities. His research involve with the way in which a certain Kurdish nationalism or Kurdishness is emerged, described and perpetuated with the help of music and within their music. Mr. Aksoy adheres to Benedict Anderson’s school of thought insofar as seeing the concept of “nation” as an imaginary thing. The nation building process for Kurds requires a more homogeneous definition of the nation not only as a sense of belonging, but also as a framework for political identity. Some Kurdish musicians use their music to promote their nation-building projects despite not having a unique language, religion, or even alphabet to unite all the Kurds. His goal is to understand such intricate of issues as the dynamic relationship between Kurdish music making and nationalism as a way of life and how they are interconnected.


Growing up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, Mr. Aksoy’s only memory of Kurdish music in his early childhood is his grandmother’s singing Kurdish laments for her late husband. Mr. Aksoy’s passion in studying Kurdish Ethnomusicology is, therefore, a part of his journey to search for his own identity which has been systematically denied and modified since his birth. Mr. Aksoy expresses the link between identity and music in a Kurdish context, “music serves as a medium of expression for the peoples' identities while music becomes a medium of manifestation for the Kurds.”


Mr. Aksoy’s main observation concerning the future of Kurdish music is that there have not been powerful institutions that can lead the efforts of archiving and recording Kurdish music, given the physical, linguistic and socio-political disintegration of Kurdish communities. As a result, many Kurdish musicians often have had strong ties with Iranians, Turks and Arabs in order to propagate their music throughout history. In Turkey Kurds used to bury their music cassettes to protect them from Turkish military forces and village guards. In the present, there is a trend in which some Kurdish musicians take what is ‘left’ as Kurdish music and mix it with rap and classical music in an effort to shape the future of Kurdish music.


However, there is a possibility of leading Kurdish music in an authentic way to shape its future. According to Mr. Aksoy, the rights of an unreleased TRT music archive, which Turkish musicologists recorded in various provinces in Turkey until 1970s, have been sold to Kalan Music Production in Istanbul. Producers at Kalan are currently in the process of re-issuing old tunes, which include Kurdish ones aside from other folk tunes. When old Kurdish music is recovered from the archives it may offer opportunities for Kurdish musicians to finally research the first recordings of Kurdish folk tunes recorded in Turkey. It is not to say which ethnic group owns what music, or which instruments belong to whom. Rather, Mr. Aksoy beautifully hopes that, “it should be a turning point at which people come to the realization that music belongs to all of us.”


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