Kurdish singer Rewşan Çeliker held a concert at Diyarbakır (Amed) Metropolitan Municipality Culture and Congress Centre on Saturday night.
The concert, arranged by event organisers Pera, filled the hall with to capacity with an audience of 1,500. Çeliker performed Kurdish folkloric songs in the two-part concert, and at the end of her performance gave a speech drawing attention to the importance of Kurdish culture and art, language and literature.
Rewşan Çeliker is renowned for her dedication to uncovering the hidden talents of the female dengbej (performers of traditional Kurdish songs) in Kurdish villages.
In 2014, she embarked on a remarkable journey to explore the rich cultural heritage of the female dengbej. Throughout her quest, she unveiled the untold stories of these women and their struggles for recognition. During her research on the history of the female dengbej, Çeliker discovered that Meryem Xan and Ayşa Şan were the first recorded female voices in this tradition.
She came across the work of writer Ahmet Aras, who mentioned a female dengbej named Gûlê (Rose) in his book dating back to 1965. Intrigued by this revelation, Çeliker decided to visit historical sites associated with the dengbej, such as the İshak Paşa Palace and the Ehmedî Xanî Shrine in Ağrı (Agirî). She believed that these places might have served as inspiration for many Kurdish singers, including Gûlê and Evdalê Zeynikê.
Delving deeper into the story, Çeliker uncovered a fascinating musical duel that occurred between Evdalê Zeynikê and Gûlê. Evdalê Zeynikê, a renowned male dengbej, challenged Gûlê, the daughter of an Armenian monk and a talented dengbej herself. Lasting for three days and three nights, the competition captivated the entire village and showcased the incredible skills of both performers. Ultimately, Evdalê Zeynikê emerged as the victor, but Gûlê admired his talent and proposed marriage, on condition that she could maintain her own religion. However, Evdalê Zeynikê, already married with children, decided to part ways with Gûlê, leaving her to be celebrated as a respected dengbej in her own right.
Çeliker says that the inspiration she gained from the story of Gûlê and Evdalê Zeynikê led her to embark on the mission to meet contemporary Kurdish women with singing talents. She visited a neighbourhood in search of female singers and encountered a woman named Yasemin, who had been singing for two years, but mostly within the confines of her own home. Yasemin shared the challenges faced by women in society, where singing is often considered shameful or discouraged by men. Despite these obstacles, Yasemin bravely sang a heartfelt song for Çeliker, highlighting the hidden talents and resilience of so many Kurdish women.
Moved by Yasemin’s performance, Çeliker reflected on the importance of preserving and promoting Kurdish music and culture. She hoped that one day, women would have the freedom to sing openly, and that society would recognize the abundant talent among Kurdish women. With this vision in mind, Çeliker continued her journey, aiming to unearth more hidden voices and stories from Kurdish villages.