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Rudaw

Interview

Hossein Alizadeh: Kurdish music takes me back into history

By Rudaw 7/12/2018
Persian musician Hossein Alizadeh draws creative inspiration from many places including neighboring Kurdistan. Photo: Alizadeh FB
Persian musician Hossein Alizadeh draws creative inspiration from many places including neighboring Kurdistan. Photo: Alizadeh FB
Iranian composer Hossein Alizadeh has probably as many hardcore followers in the Kurdistan Region per capita as in his home country of Iran. His 1983 album NeyNava (Song of Compassion), a work of sorrowful traditional flute and violin, has been the soundtrack of Kurdish documentaries and television programs for many years.

Alizadeh, 67, visited the Kurdistan Region recently to be judge in a music panel. Alizadeh has composed music for many Iranian films, including two of Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi's films: Time for the Drunken Horses and the Turtles Can Fly.

In an interview with Rudaw, Alzadeh said that he would like to have a live performance of NeyNava for his Kurdish fans.

"I composed NeyNava 35 years go and I had forgotten about it, but in Erbil everything is coming back to me," Alizadeh said, adding that the album has equally strong fans in Iran's other neighboring countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Alizadeh calls Kurdistan "my home" and that part of his visit to the Kurdistan Region was to get to know the culture and traditions of his neighbors "as all artists must do."

"Kurdish music is an ocean and I'd be exaggerating if I said I know it well, but I'm in love with Kurdish music and the Kurdish people," Alizadeh told Rudaw. "I'm so inspired by Kurdish music that even when I'm composing for other films I still draw from Kurdish music."

This is a short version of the interview with Alizadeh broadcast on Rudaw TV.


Rudaw: How do you feel being in Kurdistan for the first time?

Hossein Alizadeh:
Since I landed at the airport then went for a walk in the city I feel like I'm in my own home. What artists must do is to get closer to the culture of their neighbors. We all know the West and their culture and traditions very well, but we know very little of our own neighbors and the reason for that is political. If the neighbors are friends instead of enemies they could become a force for good. In the last 40-50 years I've traveled to many parts of the world, but this trip to Kurdistan will forever remain in my memory.

What do you think of Kurdish music?

Kurdish music is an ocean and I'd be exaggerating if I said I know it well, but I'm in love with Kurdish music and the Kurdish people. I've many friends in different parts of Iranian Kurdistan and since my early days I've been familiar with the Kurdish culture. Kurdish music is rich, but many in this generation don't know what a wealth they have.

You can find many ancient and pre-Islamic tunes in Kurdish music. When I hear Hora from the Kermanshah region, I go back deep into history. Even when I compose music for films that have nothing to do with Kurds I still draw inspiration from Kurdish music. More or less I've known Kurdish singers and musicians but it was due to my work that I had to delve deeper into Kurdish music and art.

You're a well-known and prominent Iranian composer with a wealth of great work, but you're mostly known among Kurds for NeyNava. Did you know that work had such great admirers here?

I composed NeyNava 35 years ago and have done much more since then, but since its release in Europe and in countries with similar cultures to ours such as Iran and Azerbaijan and Kurdistan too, it has strong following. I was even about to forget that I had composed NeyNava, but during my time in Erbil everything has come back to life for me. I'm taken back to the days I composed NeyNava. Those were difficult days. I had to either go somewhere and shout at the top of my lungs or completely leave this world. On the one hand the Iran-Iraq war was raging and on the other most of my close friends and students had left the country.

In those days, I was spending most of the time alone and by myself in order to focus on what I was working on. I can say that NeyNava was for a long while my daily writing routine and I would compose it in my head as I was walking on the street. I needed a way to express the pain. I don't want to remind people of their bitter days but I wanted to compose an homage to those very days that are now gone.

Any plans for a concert in the Kurdistan Region?

Certainly! I think performing NeyNava here would be a beautiful thing. We could do something different here. Either perform it on stage or bring a whole orchestra. The emotional and geographic distance between Iran and Kurdistan is so short that it could easily be done. I'm always sad that people who are so geographically close to each other are so emotionally apart. It's political borders which have created such boundaries.

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