If you have a social media account, it is almost impossible for you not to have come across a hilarious vine courtesy of a 21 year old Kurd by the name of Shlovan. Originally from Slemani (South Kurdistan), Shlovan Jalal is a student who currently resides in Lincoln, America. Arguably the most watched Kurdish social media star of the past year, funny guy Shlovan sits with Medya to discuss Newroz, Kurdistan and laughs…
How will you celebrate Newroz this year, do you have any plans in mind?
Newroz is one of my favourite holidays, it’s the original Kurdish New Year and it’s the start of spring, what’s not to love about it?! My father is in charge of plans for the Newroz celebrations here in our city, so all the Kurds will gather in a big hall for a night full of dancing and laughter! I’m really looking forward to it.
What do you enjoy most about Newroz?
I enjoy seeing a lot of Kurds in traditional Kurdish cloths; that’s definitely a joy, I also can’t forget about the halparke (Kurdish dancing) and music all night long. However, my favourite thing about Newroz has to be how everybody comes together to celebrate, especially living outside of Kurdistan because we don’t really get to have too many of these gatherings, so it’s a really great time for everyone. I spend Newroz with my family and just about every other Kurd who lives in our city, which is a blessing.
You are very open and loud about your Kurdish heritage, what do you love most about being from Kurdistan?
I think there are many great aspects of being a Kurd, from the strong family ties, to the hospitality of our people, sense of respect, great traditions, history, classic music and who can forget about all those tasty dishes! It really is an honour to say “I’m a Kurd” in Kurdish, I refer to it as “sar barzya”
Did you ever plan to become a household name in the houses of so many Kurds across the world?
Honestly, never. I don’t even consider myself that even though to this day I am a little shocked by the amount of people that have seen my vines from all around the world. I’m so thankful for everybody that’s been supporting my videos.
What’s the story behind your Vines, how did it all begin?
I’m a huge fan of comedy myself, whether its American comedy or ‘Hama Dumbal’ (Kurdish comedy), so a few years ago these “vine” videos came out and I fell in love with how in a matter of 7-15 seconds you can pretty much tell a whole story and make people laugh. I thought it was a genius idea, there was English, Arabic, Persian, Latin vines in just about every language and I really wanted to make vines in my language for my people, so I did and the reaction from Kurds all over the world was crazy and that’s how it all began.
You feature a lot of old folk Kurdish music on your social media pages, do you listen to Kurdish music a lot?
Yes! Anybody that knows me knows that I absolutely love old Kurdish music. I grew up listening to them from my grandfather and father, I have been in love ever since. Some of my favourites are Hessen Zirek, Mamle, Ali Mardan, karim kaban, shamel saib, fuad ahmed and Naser Razazi.
Who are the other Kurds that participate in your vines?
My brother in-law Peshawa and my brother Bandi participate in my videos. I do get help in my vines, whether it’s my parents or brother. Lots of times Kurds from everywhere message me and say “hey can you do a vine about this because it has happened to me” so I take their suggestions quite often. Once I have the idea in place, then that’s where I come up with the words, the location and so on.
The general feedback you receive online show many of your followers relate to the content you show. Is this an important factor to you?
That’s by far the most important thing because once you can relate that means it has happened to you or you’ve at least witnessed it happen. I think that’s a big factor to why the videos have been so popular because it’s all based on real everyday events in the life of a Kurd.
Some may say that your vines and videos are mocking Kurds in the approach you take to their character portrayal, what would your response be?
No at all, I am a Kurd and a very proud one so why would I mock my own people? It makes no sense really. As I mentioned before most people can relate so it must be the truth. The videos are all based on a little sense of humour within the truth, if we can’t learn to laugh at ourselves – we can never move forward in life.
There is a massive gap in the Kurdish market in terms of comedy acts, do you see yourself moving on to bigger projects in the future, maybe on TV?
I would love that! That would be an awesome opportunity but to be honest I’m not sure if it will ever happen. I have created over 50 vines, some of the most popular Kurdish videos on the internet amongst Kurdish youth are mine but the videos still haven’t been picked up or broadcasted on any Kurdish channel’s which is quite disappointing.
We often see you walking down your neighbourhood streets in your Sharwal (traditional Kurdish trousers for men), has growing up in America ever clashed with your Kurdish identity?
Yes, as far as culture, laws, traditions and just about everything…being an American and a Kurd is totally opposite of one another. However, I think that it’s a good thing I have been fortunate enough to learn about both lifestyles and pick up the best traits from both worlds. At the end of the day, I am a 100% Kurdish and always will be.
Social media, as seen in your case has been an effective tool in sharing with the rest of the world your comedy acts. What advice do you have for our readers who may want to follow your steps?
DON’T BE AFRIAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be yourself and not to be afraid to give what you’re passionate about a try – you have nothing to lose! Also, don’t pay much attention to the people who don’t like your stuff because whenever you do something that’s seen by many on a big scale you will ALWAYS have people who love your stuff and people who will hate it and that’s ok.
There aren’t many comedy acts from a Kurdish background, why do you think this is?
I think there are a lot of great Kurdish comedians out there but unfortunately their dreams are shut down by some of the closest people to them, their own family or friends in some cases would say “A comedian? You want to be a loty?” As a Kurdish society we often tend to want our kids to grow up to be doctors, lawyers and teachers, many other acts are frowned upon which is quite sad, although we have come a long way so I do think that it’s getting better with time.
What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
A lot more vines of course! I would also like to expand and do English vines after all as I mentioned I am a fan of comedy. Lastly I’d like to do longer videos such as comedy acts on YouTube, whether it’s on Kurdish culture or just everyday comedy that anyone can laugh at because at the end of the day, it’s all about making people smile. Har bijin!