Musician Haco: a man without a country
Respected Kurdish musician Ciwan Haco recently came to Turkey to promote his new album. (PHOTOSUNDAY’S ZAMAN, Mehmet Ali Poyraz)
Ciwan Haco is one of the most respected voices in Kurdish music, and he recently came to Turkey to promote his new album “Veger” (Return).
He also appeared in a video clip with Hülya Avşar for the Turkish song “Esmer.” He says his life was spent migrating from one place to another. “I see myself as a stateless person; a man without a country,” he says. The Syrian-born musician who currently resides in Germany shares his opinions on his music and Turkey’s politics with Sunday’s Zaman readers.
Haco is the son of a Kurdish family that was deported from Turkey in the 1920s following a Kurdish uprising. He was born in Syria to parents who always wanted to return to their homeland but never could. His contribution to Kurdish-language music has been immense, as he has made metal, rock and jazz a part of Kurdish music.
Speaking about his most recent album, the artist says, “‘Veger’ is a return to my teenage years, to the time when I was 14, 15, 16. As a kid, I’d listen to TRT Diyarbakır Radio. None of us in the house spoke Turkish, but my family always listened to that station. ‘Veger’ is a return to those days. I am 55 now. I returned to 40 years before.”
For Haco, the album is a return for all the Kurds of the area to the days when Kurdish music was popular, a return to the days when people recorded music on blank cassettes using tape recorders. But there is a difference between those days and today’s mass music industry. “Those days were much better. We had a tape recorder in the basement of our house, which was really close to the border. I would record my songs there. Everybody had to be their own producer in those days. There were no huge studios or great musicians. But we always felt good about what we were doing. Everything has changed, people have changed. But I do miss my childhood a lot. My memories are very important to me. And so is this album.”
Most of his family was born in Turkey, particularly in the cities of İstanbul, Diyarbakır and Batman, he notes, explaining why he has been visiting Turkey more frequently as of late. “I am a part of this land.” He also said he would like to come back for good, but notes, “There are serious problems in this country.” He said he wouldn’t be able to produce new albums, organize concerts or tour the country. “Since it is mostly politics that everything relies on, the atmosphere isn’t great.”
Remembering a concert he gave in Batman in 2003, Haco says those days were better and that the “atmosphere” has deteriorated since. But how so? “I am not a politician, ask that question to people such as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Osman Baydemir. [Laughs] They must know for sure. Making Kurdish-language music is always associated with something political. If you are making music in Kurdish, then the questions you get in interviews also carry that weight. This is normal for the press, but it is just too heavy on the artists.
He also sees a lot of Şivan Perwer, another Kurdish singer who resides in Germany. “We respect each other. This Saturday we will be playing in Berlin together. Şivan and I talk about Turkey all the time.” Haco got together three times with Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya, who left Turkey for France after an angry crowd, including artists and singers, threw spoons and forks at him during an event in which he sang in Kurdish. He later died of a heart attack in exile in 2000.
His family was forced out of Turkey in 1925 following the Kurdish uprising led by Şeyh Sait. His grandfather was from Mardin. “My father moved to somewhere really close to the [Turkish] border. At the time, the French were in power in Syria. My grandfather wanted to return to Midyat [in Mardin], but Turkey didn’t allow his return. Many families were able to return about 12-13 years later. My mother’s family returned to Turkey following a general amnesty in the 1940s.
Growing up, he mostly listened to traditional Kurdish songs and Turkish songs on the Diyarbakır radio station. Being so close to Turkey and so far from it at the same time, growing up was a “bad feeling.”
“I was a child. But my mom, dad and uncle always spoke of going back.” Does he feel like he is an exile? “My family was exiled twice. The first one was when we were deported to Syria from here. In the second deportation, the Syrian state confiscated all our land. All my family had to move to Sweden, other Scandinavian countries and Germany, which was a very tragic and painful event,” he said. As a German passport holder, Haco has never tried to obtain Turkish citizenship. “I never thought about that. And if I become a citizen of Turkey, will this solve the problem? I have only talked about my own family. But there are many families in Turkey like mine.”