Sounds of Kurdistan

Teatr ZAR

May 7, 2015 18:00

Stazione Leopolda di Firenze | IT

Concert by Dengbej Kazo, with Vahan Kerovpyan and Murat Içlinalça

Dengbej are Kurdish storytellers who collect and recite stories about life in Kurdish villages and cities. There are many comparisons that can be drawn between the dengbej 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 dengbej dier in that they have traditionally been dependant on their voice alone rather than using instrumental accompaniments. The topics of dengbej’s kilams (songs), which can last from hours to days, generally include the heroic deeds of warriors (pêlewan), the adventures of wanderers, battles between Kurdish
tribes, tragedies and delights of loves won and loves lost, and the struggle against disasters of nature and man. 
The criminalization of the Kurdish language after the military coup of 1980 in Turkeynally silenced the storytellers, and many songs were lost. Documentation efforts are now underway to describe this extraordinary phenomenon of voices that embody the past.

Dengbej Kazo was born in 1950 in Van and now lives near Istanbul. He often gives concerts performing both popular Kurdish songs and his own compositions. He also improvises in keeping with the tradition of the dengbej (travelling Kurdish singers and storytellers). In 1960 the Turkish government oficially banned the practice of the dengbej. In the 1980s many of the dengbej had to move to the cities in search of safety and work, and settled in their poorest sections. The dengbej tradition started to fade into oblivion. In 2003 a number of EU-fundedprojects were begun to protect this tradition. 

Vahan Kerovpyan was born in Paris, now lives in Porto. He is musician, instrumentalist and composer. He leads workshops on drum and percussion playing, on which he performs since childhood. For several years he followed courses of dehol with Edmond Zartarian, also zarb and dap with Madjid Khaladj. Moreover, he plays piano and sings in the Armenian choir Akn. He is a member of Kotchnak since 2003 and a musician of the Medz Bazar collective, formed in Paris in 2012. He completed Armenian studies at the French National Institute of Eastern Languages and Civilizations, also studied history at the Sorbonne University. He collaborates with artists, composing music for performances, playing and singing alive. He participates in projects connected with preservation and development of the Armenian cultural heritage, among others he leads classes for Armenian children, publishes articles, works in renovation of the Armenian monuments in Turkey.

Murat Içlinalça was born in 1985 in Istanbul. He has been a student of Armenian church music since he was a child, having Nisan Çalgıcıyan as master. He has studied singing and folk music at the Istanbul Technical University Music Conservatory, from which he graduated in 2010. At same year he was appointed master singer at the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Istanbul.


Cultivating an ethos of ensemble work, Teatr ZAR develops productions through a long process of creating its own theatrical language, which draws on music from numerous traditions found in the East and West. The company is a multinational group that was formed during annual research expeditions to Georgia between 1999 and 2003. During these expeditions, they collected much musical material, including a core of centuries-old polyphonic songs that have their roots in the beginning of the human era and are probably the oldest forms of polyphony in the world.

‘Zar’ is a name of funeral songs performed by the Svaneti tribe who inhabit the high regions of the Caucasus in north-west Georgia. Teatr ZAR attempts to demonstrate that theatre does not only relate to ‘thea’ (Greek for ‘seeing’) but it is something that above all should be heard.
Performances are just part of a long process of research, expeditions, personal explorations and transformation. ZAR brings back theatre as it was before art ruptured into dierent disciplines and styles.


[photo by Magdalena Mądra: Ruins of the Armenian church in Khulevank]
Free admission

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