The lyrics of a struggle: Hesen Şerîf, “Birîna avê”

The survival of a nation is strongly contingent on the preservation of its heritage. The most successful cultures have been kept alive by transmitting cultural knowledge through music, folklore, myths, historical poetry and literature – which in essences is the arts – through generations. Culture thrives on its art heritage, not only that but it passes from decade-to-decade continuing to educate and inform coming generations of their ancestry.

Kurdish culture has done just that.

Kurdish music, in my humble opinion, is what has safeguarded the Kurds from absolute extermination culturally, historically and physically. The struggle of the Kurdish nation is embedded in the lyrics of our musicians, singers, song writers and poets. We are a nation of music.

Hesen Şerif is one such preserver of the Kurdish culture. His music has defined his role within the Kurdish music landscape. His lyrics speak to the generations of oppressed Kurds, it speaks to disunity, it speaks to a nation segregated – but it speaks to a nation that lives. His latest album entitled, “Birîna avê” (translates to the wound of water), takes us through the emotions of a Kurd in the struggle. For some of us, it strikes a chord, for others it becomes a window into the reality of the Kurdish nation.

The single “Birîna avê”, named after the album, is a rollercoaster of emotions. As is customary, there are references made to nature both in the title and the lyrics. Kurds feel deep connections with their homeland. We are of the mountains, and as such it is reflected in our lyrics. He sings:

Ew baran bû? Yan jî rondik ê min bû?/Was that rain? Or my teardrops?

Bi ser belgê dar û bara, li ser ruk ê bendewara/On the leaves of the trees, on the path of the enslaved

Di hatin e xwar ê, li min jaro, li te jarê/[They] fell down, pity for me, pity for you

These questions are followed by self-responses that metaphorically express the anguish and devastation of being occupied and oppressed with further references to nature and natural calamities. “Kezeba axê” is another song on the album that deals with the same themes and symbolism found in “Birîna avê”.

Albeit, Kurds suffer and continue to suffer but we also recognize the need to celebrate life. Hesen has given us both songs to ponder and cry over but also ones that get our shoulders to shake – which at times is uncontrollable for Kurds. Songs on the album such as “Sebra min”, “Ewran”, “Narê/Potporî” are the means to the end of nice long govend/helperke sessions.

The song “Niga” is sung in the Soranî dialect. Singing in several dialects is the norm amongst Kurdish singers. The recognition that we are a people of several dialects is inclusive and tightens the unity amongst Kurds. I, myself, am proponent of not only including several dialects on a single album, but also progressively as a nation learning the dialects of Kurds.

Overall, the album is very enjoyable but strays away from the pop phenomenom that is quickly sweeping over Kurdistan. It’s more traditional in its lyrics, recitation, instrumentals and essence – which I live for. If you’re a lover of Kurdish folklore music reflective of traditional, historic Kurdish music you will love the album.

You can download the full album from itunes: