- Eyhok: Hakkari Geleneksel Müziği—Muzîka Gelêrî ya Hekariyê—Traditional Music of Hakkari
One of the great musical revelations of my life occurred in February 2005, when I was given a cassette of Dengbêj Kazo's album Salimê Min. Although I had taught ethnomusicology in Istanbul for two years, I discovered for the first time the unique use of vocal timbre by Kurdish dengbêj (traditional bard) singers from Turkey. To my delight, I learned that record companies here have published hundreds of recordings of traditional and neo-traditional Kurdish music since the February 1991 repeal of Law 2932, which had previously made the use of most of the thirty-four languages spoken in Turkey illegal.
The invisibility of Kurdish traditional music in Turkish society at large stems from the complex relationships between ethnic Turk and Kurd populations. Although all languages, including the two main Kurdish languages spoken in Turkey today (Kurmanji and Dimili), have been legal for eighteen years, their use remains sensitive and problematic, as Kerim Yildiz has documented in The European Union and Turkish Accession (Pluto Press, 2008:78-89). City and personal names were changed long ago to Turkish, television broadcasting of Kurdish content only began in 2009, and the use of Kurdish languages in public still occasionally spurs lawsuits against singers and speakers. The government website for Hakkari Province includes seven songs, all sung in Turkish, despite the fact that the vast majority of the population there is Kurdish. Indeed, the cover of the album reviewed here does not include the word "Kürtçe" (Kurdish), although Turkish citizens will instantly identify Hakkari as a Kurdish region.
Under these circumstances, Eyhok is cause for celebration. For the first time, one of the largest record companies of Turkey, Istanbul-based Kalan Müzik, has published Kurdish village music along with extensive information about the history of the region, its people, and its music. Kudos to the album's researchers, and to Hasan Saltik, the head of Kalan Müzik, for continuing the vital and expansive work of documenting Turkey's musics and building bridges for dialogue. Hasan has also produced the albums of Kardeş Türküler (Ballads of Fraternity), a very important group that has worked for peace through music. Their eponymous first multi-ethnic album (1997) included Turkish translations alongside the original-language texts of the Kurdish, Armenian, Georgian, and Laz songs they arranged. Performers on that album include Selda Öztürk and Vedat Yıldırım, who along with Aytekin Ataş wrote the accompanying booklet for Eyhok. According to Ataş, the album's title stems from the custom of listeners singing nonlexical syllables such as "ey" and "hok" at the ends of sections, along with the soloist. The Bogaziçi (Bosphorus) University Folkore Club, located in Istanbul, published the Turkish portion of the booklet's text in 2006, in their journal Dans Müzik Kültür/folkora dogru (66:167-233).
With fewer than 300,000 inhabitants, Hakkari is Turkey's most sparsely populated province, yet its music has been analyzed more thoroughly than that of other Kurdish regions in Turkey. The authors acknowledge the work of Dieter Christensen, who began researching the music of Hakkari in the late 1950s and published extensively on it for half a century. Christensen's work constitutes the largest body of scholarly work on Kurdish music of Turkey that is published in international languages. The production of Eyhok, however, relies primarily [End Page 319] on current ethnographic research conducted by the Boğaziçi Performing Arts Ensemble/ Musical Unit. The musician-researchers, who do not lend their own performances to the CDs, recorded singers in Hakkari town and provincial villages, as well as some who had migrated to Istanbul from Hakkari. The authors note that "most of the people living [in the rural areas] had, because of the...