Sümeyra Çakır’s close friend Hüseyin Erdem spoke to Bianet about Çakır’s musical life and her contributions to Kurdish folk music.
Kurdish music compiler Erdem discussed Çakır’s history and background. “I met Sümeyra (Taşarcan) (….) (Çakır) in one of the classrooms of İstanbul Technical University Taşkışla in 1968. Back then, Sabahattin Eyüboğlu and Doğan Kuban taught art history there. I introduced her to Ruhi Su in 1970. Thus, these two extraordinary and educated voices started to take new steps in announcing the voice of Anatolia to the whole world”.
Sümeyra Çakır’s contribution to folk music is well-known. She performed many folk songs with her exceptional voice. Her friend Erdem, who closely witnessed her musical evolution, talks about how she started singing in Kurdish. ”Being in a friendship with Sümeyra and Ruhi Su naturally opened new production processes. Neither were born Kurdish or Alevi, but they sang these melodies with love as if they were born that way”, he said.
Explaining how Sümeyra started to perform Kurdish folk songs, Erdem said: ”West German Radios (WDR) wanted to broadcast for a radio theatre from me in 1985. The radio theatre also covered the Newroz issue. Music was also considered for the play. I suggested Sümeyra. The fact that director Hein Brühl listened to Sümeyra with my friend Günter Wallraff impressed him. Thus, Sümeyra started to work more intensely on Kurdish melodies, especially on my collections”, he said.
”Günter Walraff admired the Turkish, Kurdish and German folk songs sung by Sümeyra. The ones that were sung in Kurdish for the broadcast were also included on the Siwarê Çûçikan album. Due to the political environment in Turkey it was released without specifying the names… These are our folk songs I learned from my mother and my close relatives in my childhood”.
To the question of how the name of the album was chosen, Hüseyin Erdem said: ”If you pay attention, ‘Siwarê Çûçikan’ is featured in a Kurdish folk song on the album. Its translation was first published in New Horizons magazine in 1969. At that time, Sabahattin Eyüboğlu’s house was like a beehive. All progressive writers and artists would gather at Sabahattin Eyüboğlu’s house every Monday. Sabahattin said that these anonymous words can compete with Lorca poems … In these words, ‘Elokê Kulek Siwarê Çûçikan’ was mentioned, we chose it with Sümeyra. Just as she listened to my mother’s ‘kilams’ from the records, she also listened to my mother on the phone again. We sang together over and over. She wanted to understand each word, emphasising the connotations of the words”.
Sümeyra was happy to contribute to Kurdish folk music while the album was being prepared, said Erdem. “Turkish, German and English translations of the songs, plus the lyrics and notes were not included on the tape. At that time, not even my name was referred to in Turkey. She was happy that she would make a contribution to Kurdish folk music with her voice. She always loved these things on radio, television, and concerts … But she did not think that these recordings would one day be collected in an album. She was planning to expand and make new records in the future. Due to circumstances, however, only these records remain.”
About Sümeyra Çakır
In 1975 Çakır founded the ”Dostlar Choir” with Ruhi Su. She then released the album Barış ve Gurbet Türküleri with the West Berlin Workers’ Choir. She sang the International Anthem at the International Political Song Festival held in East Berlin in 1980. Çakır was sued for singing the International Anthem and sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, and so was forced to continue her music studies abroad. Çakır, who spent the last 10 years of her life in exile, succumbed to cancer on 5 February 1990 and died in Frankfurt.