Turkish reforms music to Kurds ears
The first notes of change in the wake of landmark democracy reforms agreed by the Turkish parliament in August have begun to be played by the music-mad Kurdish community. Following the quasi-recognition of the Kurdish language by the authorities, and the ground-breaking step of legalizing language courses and broadcasts in Kurdish, the Kurdish music industry is reportedly experiencing a boom.
“Before, people were frightened, the police could turn up at any moment and demand that the radio or cassette be turned off,” said a manager of music company Umut Plak in Istanbul, who preferred not to be named. “Now the taboo has gone and the market is going through the roof. There are so many amateur singers who have been waiting for this moment to show themselves,” he said.
Music company Asanlar Muzik recently said it had chalked up a nine-fold jump in sales in cassettes of Kurdish music in the southeast of the country between June and August alone. In June, out of 50,000 units sold, only 5,000 were of Kurdish music. In August 70,000 units were sold in all, with a staggering 45,000 of them Kurdish titles.
The street vendors who hawk music in the capital now no longer complain of being hassled “at least twice a month” said the Umut Plak manager. He proudly exhibited the first two laser video discs charting the history of Kurdish songs, one by Kemale Xani, the other by Salih Dilovan, which came on the the market only two months ago. Before, there was simply no demand.
However, some fear a backlash by Turkish nationalists whose representatives in parliament fought tooth and nail to stop the reform measures going through. Mehmet, a buyer of Kurdish music, was gloomy about the future, saying Kurds would think twice about marketing themselves as Kurdish singers because of the bad feeling.