Dengbêj, the traditional Kurdish music genre of storytelling by singing, is one of the most important elements of cultural resistance to popular culture, assimilation and denial policies on the one hand, and also a vivid method of recalling Kurdish history, some of which is otherwise being forgotten.
Although sources usually mainly include the names of male dengbêjs, women are some of the most important keepers of this culture. Helin Kılıçarslan continues the tradition of dengbêj today. She is also an instructor at Ma Music in Diyarbakır (Amed), and she told Mesopotamia News Agency how she started her musical journey.
“Music has always been in my life from when I was small until today.” she says:
“When we went to Istanbul, my father took me to the Mesopotamian Culture Centre (MKM), where I started learning baglama [a small but long-necked stringed instrument with some similarities to a mandolin].”
She was very impressed by the Dengbej Gazin, a famous woman dengbej who performs stories of the oppression that Kurdish people have experienced throughout history.
“She mentioned about our village, which was burned by the state, and I was very impressed by her style”
She is also involved with an ensemble by the name of Jin Ma.
“We make our own arrangements and sing our own songs” she says. She advises young musicians to listen to and sing through the original versions of songs.”