1. A brief review of Kurdish music literature


The main resources used in this study are either in Turkish or in English. Most scholarly works on Kurdish studies have focused on Kurdish history and the Kurdish language (such as Van Bruinessen 1992 and Hassanpour 1992), and there is no comprehensive monograph on Kurdish music in English, Kurdish or Turkish. There are collections of articles on Kurdish music (such as Bayrak 2002, Nezan and Mutlu 1996), ethnomusicological articles on specific issues, and encyclopedia entries on Kurds and Kurdish music. I would like to emphasize that many academic studies were aimed at proving the existence of a Kurdish nation and language that is distinct from Turkish, Persian, or Arabic cultures. This is in response to the fact that the governments of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq in which major Kurdish populations live have insisted on denying Kurdish identity and language.


The greater portion of the literature on Kurdish music in Turkey is based on efforts to prove the existence of a distinct Kurdish musical culture or the presence of different sets of musical cultures in Turkey. For instance, Kürt Müziği, Dansları ve Sarkıları (Kurdish Music, Dances and Songs) is a collection of articles on Kurdish music in different periods, edited by Mehmet Bayrak (2002). Another important study dealing with Kurdish music is a collection of articles by Kendal Nezan and Erol Mutlu entitled Kürt Müziği ‘Kurdish Music’, which was published in Turkey by the Avesta publishing house (1996). The book contains six articles dealing with Kurdish folklore, ethnography and encyclopedic entries on Kurdish music. At the end of the book there is a reprint of  komitas’ transcriptions of Kurdish melodies published in 1903. Komitas Vardapet, an Armenian musician and ethnomusicologist who studied the music of West Asia and Asia Minor, had collected approximately 4,000 tunes of Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish folk music. That reprinted piece, which includes thirteen Kurdish tunes, is the first collection of Kurdish musical notations and it is still considered a valuable source for the study of the relationship between Armenian and Kurdish music.


Both books contain some repetition and some variations especially concerning the naming of instruments, genres, styles, and so on, because of the different geographic locations of the traditional Kurdish homelands and the different mixture of the musical cultures around Kurds. If there is struggle to achieve consensus about an ongoing “nation construction” process for Kurds, the lack of a general consensus as regards terminology is understandable, in my view. Though huge differences in musical attitudes, practices, and performance settings of Kurds living in different regions make it difficult to reach general conclusions about Kurdish music, there are many articles detailing aspects of Kurdish music in both Kürt Müziği and Kürt Müziği, Dansları ve Sarkıları at a general level. Therefore, in addition to the need for detailed ethnographic fieldwork in every part of Kurdistan, some general consensus on scientific perspectives and methodological approaches for Kurdish music scholarship will help us in planning future studies.

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