Ferhat Tunç: Kobani

December 11, 2017

Living With Critics

Listening Post 128. The Kurdish-Turkish singer-songwriter Ferhat Tunç has achieved artistic success, but he has also provoked criticism that goes well beyond negative reviews. Over the course of his 30-year career, he has been harassed, censored, fined, indicted, arrested, jailed and received death threats. As this review posts, he awaits trial in Istanbul on charges of “insulting the president” of Turkey and “propaganda for a terrorist organization” over his support for the Kurdish rights movement. The alleged crimes arose from Twitter comments, but the deeper offense no doubt comes from albums like Kobani, which champions marginalized populations. The terrain Tunç covers may seem remote, but he transcends distance with his mix of Middle Eastern and rock sounds, songs focused on people and places that are easily Googled, and his reverent, soulful voice singing in Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian. The album’s title track pays tribute to the resistance in Kobani, a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria that endured a six-month siege by ISIS, during which hundreds of civilians were killed and 70 percent of the town was destroyed, while Turkey resisted aiding the Kurdish militias that eventually broke the siege: “You are the mothers’ fiery stare,” Tunç sings of the city’s defenders, “… the liberation waves of the people (video 1). Ali Ismail eulogizes a university student who died after being beaten by police during one of the anti-government demonstrations that swept Turkey in 2013 (video 2). While the traditional Armenian love song Naro jan makes no mention of the genocide of the 1920s, it hauntingly evokes vanished communities almost a century later (video 3). Other songs recall the 2013 assassination of three Kurdish women activists in Paris and the mass killings of Kurds by Turkish forces in the 1930s. Tunç sings truth to power and—unlike some regimes—he takes criticism in stride. (Kirkelig Kulturverksted/Royem Müzik)


Kobani: “You are the mothers’ fiery stare/You are the liberation waves of the people/You are the will, you are the struggle/You are the cry, the melody, the torch of uprising/You are the guide, across history’s pages/The echo of voice, the pride, you are the call of liberty/O Kobani”


Ali Ismail: “You have been torn off from my soul and skin/You my son, my chest is now a place of ruins/Oh, those mountains shall mourn me/And be witnesses of my clamour/How should my tongue speak when the pain is silent?/You were the shining light of my home/I’m now burning, because you’re here no more”


Naro jan: “Naro, Naro, dear Naro/Your hair is coral/Let’s go to the mountains/Girl with the sweet voice/Tell your father to give you to me/Naro, Naro, dear Naro, you entice me with your voice”







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