Album review: Aynur Dogan’s "Hedur"

Finding solace in the sounds of home

For years, singer Aynur Dogan has preserved and expanded the possibilities of traditional Kurdish music, lending a voice to her people. She has just released her seventh studio album. By Marian Brehmer

It all begins with a tune played on the piano, all at once overlaid with the sounds of a woman’s voice, filled with yearning. Her dreamy sighs seem to bring together all the world’s pain and troubles. Listening to "Rabe hîv e", an old Kurdish folk song, a panorama of vast, bare plains and rugged, Anatolian mountains suddenly seems to open out before you.

In your mind’s eye, you see the region in Eastern Turkey where the Kurdish singer Aynur Dogan grew up.

The song tells of the melancholy magic of a moonlit night and the memory of a beloved. The shallow sounds of the piano, interspersed with elements of jazz, blend wonderfully with the rich timbre of Dogan’s voice.

Ancient sounds and melodies, seemingly from a time long past, soon melt together effortlessly, with modern touches provided by piano, violins, and percussion. This is what gives the music its energy and upbeat feel on the second track, Hedur, followed as it is by tremolos from an electric saz and syncopated voice leading typical of Kurdish folk music.

“I wasn’t born with sorrow/ I was ready for my dowry/ Was I it or was I not?/ Let me be, let me not be”, Dogan sings in the first line of Hedur.

Her new album, her seventh, bears the same title. "Hedur" means 'to comfort' or 'to find solace in time', and is a retelling, of sorts, of some of the disappointments and hardships of the Kurdish people. ‘Hedur’ can also be understood as a lament for the state of humanity as a whole.

 

"Hedur is a search for inner peace using the sounds of my mother tongue and the music of humanity. (…) 'Hedur' is a Kurdish word for finding solace in the passing of time. It also refers to a process of self-discovery, finding inner peace and keeping your balance," says Dogan.

Ambassador for the Kurdish people

Over the course of her career, spanning nearly twenty years, Aynur Dogan has undoubtedly become a vital ambassador for the Kurdish people on stages around the world. Time and again, she has introduced Kurdish folk music to international bestseller lists and has contributed to a hesitant revival of Kurdish music in recent years, even in Turkey – despite rampant oppression and traumatic memories of the times when Kurdish cultural heritage was systematically suppressed in Turkey.

In March, Hedur made it to the top of the Transglobal World Music charts. And deservedly so; the album shows how much Dogan has matured musically: in this album, she features not only on vocals, but also as producer and composer.

Alongside the traditional repertoire, there are some songs written by Dogan herself. Just as her previous performances at world music festivals have demonstrated, Dogan is bold enough to be innovative, creating a fusion of different elements. Working with the German jazz pianist Franz von Chossy, she makes a conscious effort to bring her own musical tradition into the 21st century. On one track, Dogan surprises the listener by playing the tanbur, a Kurdish lute.

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