Kobani - Ferhat Tunç

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Ferhat Tunç
Royem / KKV (www.kkv.no )

"Ömrüm Benim (My Life)"

Ferhat Tunç is the kind of singer, rare in today's popular data stream, who must bear witness to the politics of his art in everyday life. Despite having been persecuted, sentenced, and jailed for his sonic activism, if not also because of the infractions inflicted upon him by his own government, Tunç has persevered in focusing his attention on those who have, less fortunately, paid with their lives.

Recorded in Istanbul and Oslo, and mixed at the latter city's famed Rainbow Studio by master engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug, Kobani is Tunç's deepest mission statement yet. As the booklet explains, "he shows his solidarity with Kurds, Alevis, Yazidies and Armenians, by writing and performing songs about their stories, their suffering and pain, their hopes and the richness they bring to Anatolia and Mesopotamia." And by sheer scope of his outreach, which in this album extends farther than ever before, one can only hope that his revelations ring true, especially for those too disconnected to even imagine such horrors occurring right outside their windows.

While the rock-like arrangements that surround his voice might seem incongruous at first blush, these are needed to blast his voice across distant airwaves. "Anne Beni Haziranda Bul" (Find Me in June, Mother) sets the tone of a journey through terrains both geographic and psychological. This tribute to members of the anti-imperialist June Movement killed in Turkey is a tragic overture:

"Find Me in June, Mother"

Don't cry Mamma, don't cry, please
Keep the wound in your heart for me
Where I burn like a flame and pour like blood
Come and find me in June, Mother

Tunç's willingness to linger in the aftermath of such corruptions shows a brave heart at work behind the music, which in most cases is written by his own hand. Yet Tunç's compositional acumen is superseded by his way with words, as when this narrative is balanced later in the album by "Ali İsmaile Ağıt" (Ali Ismail), which tells the story of an Alevi youth, killed by Turkish police in 2013, from the mother's viewpoint:

"Ali Ismail"

You have been torn off from my soul and skin
You my son, my chest is now a place of ruins

Having no other recourse, the one who brought him into this world can only wonder why he has been taken from it so soon. She calls out to the mountains to be "witnesses of my clamor," and sees no possibility of reconciliation.

Tunç's sympathies lay heavily with the Kurds, whose interests are served in songs like "Hewre Şayi" (Tribe Demenan) and "Sonde Halvoriye" (The Oath of Halvoriye), which describe resistance movements against the Turkish government as it attached Kurdish tribes in the late 1930s. In these songs, a mournful oud or chorus of voices might appear, ancestral and ghostlike, even as the light rock veneer makes it seem as if these events could never happen. As if to correct our disbelief, "Vuruldular" (Fallen) addresses more recent events, dedicated as it is to three Kurdish women assassinated in Paris in January of 2013. By the intertwining of flutes and voice, their souls are depicted flying over the scene of their own death in hopes that humanity might see the error of its ways. The title track addresses the even more salient terrorism of ISIS, against whom the Kurds continue to rise:

You are faith; you removed borders from in between
Second by second, against the vile, you distributed the spears

This heartbreaking lyric uplifts the ghosts of the many who died protecting their freedom, only to embrace the one type of freedom they never wanted. Two further songs address the ISIS scourge. Of these, "Vurdular Bizi" (They Shot Us) is especially poignant, as it tells of demonstrators who, despite their cries for peace, were killed at a protest in Ankara in October of 2015.

"Naro Can"

"Naro Can" is one of only two tracks not by Tunç. This Armenian folk ballad offers a shred of hope. Because we can imagine simpler pasts, it seems to say, times when needs were met and people could love each other as they wished, we must also hold out for simpler futures, when the denizens of this planet might thrive outside the shadow of aggression. "Dere Emırxani" (River Emirghan) is an unusual yet seamless addition to the program, and reflects the album's Scandinavian coproduction. This duet with Norwegian singer Mari Boine, with words and music by Silemane Paş, extends the album's concern to nature itself.

But in the end, it is in Tunç's own biography, which finds clearest expression in "Ömrüm Benim" (My Life), that his philosophy is best expressed. Having found solace among people in foreign places, he knows firsthand that dislocation of the body can lead to an expansion of the heart, and that there is hope yet for a storm that feeds on hatred and egotism. And as we strive together toward clearer skies, we must remember that Tunç's protestations are not only meant to be heard, but also understood. - Tyran Grillo

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