5 Questions for Aynur

She is currently the most prominent voice of Kurdish music. Her unmistakable sound can be heard at the Kurdistan Festival in the Elbphilharmonie

For Aynur, music is as natural as breathing. In the Kurdish village in what is now the eastern Anatolian province of Tunceli, where she grew up, singing was part of everyday life. She then became a professional singer in Istanbul, where cultures and sounds from all over the world merge. And yet it is her cultural roots, the traditional folk songs of her home, that shape her unique style – coupled with elements of contemporary »Western« music.

Together with Kamantsche virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor and the Ensemble Resonanz, the icon can be heard at the Elbphilharmonie's Kurdistan Festival, which celebrates the diversity and vitality of this culture. In the interview, Aynur talks about some of the characteristics of Kurdish music, the connection between music and faith, and topics that move her musically.


Heutige ostanatolische Provinz Tunceli
Heutige ostanatolische Provinz Tunceli © Despositphotos

You belong to the Alevi religious community. What role does music play in this faith?

Music plays a significant role in Alevi culture and spirituality. It is used to convey their beliefs, stories, and emotions. Alevi religious gatherings, known as cem ceremonies, often involve music and dance as a way to connect with their spiritual beliefs and traditions. The music carries both religious and cultural elements that are important to the Alevi community.


Listen now!

Aynur Aynur © Muhsin Akgün

What are the main characteristics of Kurdish music?

Kurdish music is rich and diverse, reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of the Kurdish people. Some main characteristics of Kurdish music are the instruments as the saz (a string instrument), daf (a type of drum), and tembûr (a long-necked lute), among others. Kurdish music often uses unique modes and scales, giving it a distinct sound. Improvisation is a significant aspect of Kurdish music, allowing musicians their personal feelings and creativity. Kurdish music often carries messages of love, longing, struggle, and historical events. It has been used as a means of preserving and transmitting Kurdish cultural identity. The vocal style in Kurdish music is characterized by ornamentation and emotional expression. Different regions may have their own distinct vocal techniques. Kurdish music is closely tied to dance, with various traditional dances performed during celebrations and gatherings. Each region has its own unique musical styles and influences. Kurdish music and traditional sounds have been blended with contemporary genres in recent years. Storytelling of the culture and identity serve as a means of communication and celebration within the community.

Daf © Tropenmuseum Amsterdam

You sing in Kurdish, a language that was forbidden for a long time. What role does it play in your personal expression?

Singing in Kurdish is a way to connect with one’s cultural heritage and identity. Using the Kurdish language in music allows for a deeper and more authentic emotional expression. Singing in Kurdish can foster a strong bond with audiences who understand the language and its cultural nuances. It creates a sense of unity and shared experience.

What are you singing about?

Love and longing, cultural identity, struggle and resistance, nature and landscape, historical narratives, social commentary, unity and solidarity, celebrations and festivities, exile and displacement, hope and optimism. My music blends all these emotions.

What kind of music and artists are you listening to at the moment?

I mostly listen to musicians from the 30s to the 90s, whether it is blues, jazz or classical music, besides traditional music of my home. But sometimes I shuffle and listen to the radio for today's music.


Interview: Ivana Rajič, 2.10.2023

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