Cultural Cornerstones: Supporting the creative voice in crisis affected communities

The Kurds of Southeast Turkey

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Traditional Dengbej Melody


The dengbêj is the member of Kurdish society who collects and recollects all the social, political, economical, and personal events of Kurdish villages and cities and organizes these all into a form of recitation. There are many comparisons that can be drawn between the dengbêj of Kurdistan and the historical entertainers and epic poets of other cultures. France had their jongleurs and minstrels, and England had their Bards. Though similar to these traditions, the dengbêj differ in that they have traditionally been dependant on their voice alone rather than using instrumental accompaniments. The topics of a dengbêj’s kilams (songs), which can last from hours to days, generally include: the heroic deeds of warriors (pêlewan), the adventures of wanderers, battles between the big Kurdish tribes, tragedies and delights of loves won and loves lost, and the struggle against disasters of nature and man.

Photo Caption: Yusuf in the newly established “Mala Dengbejan” (House of Dengbej) Van, 2006.

Kurd Music Stories