Poetry among the Peshmerga

_76876582_51955478(2)Michael Singer at the Times Literary Supplement:

Though shy by nature, Farman is a writer and singer of Kurdish music, who started at the age of twelve performing for the Kurdish diaspora in Streatham, south London. He returned to this region in 2013 and now gets by performing at weddings and cafés to the accompaniment of electric organ or the more traditional tembûr. With wages usually several months in arrears, most Peshmerga have a second job when not at the front, but to our constant surprise they still turn up to train and fight whenever called to do so. Farman’s repertoire, though traditional in style, covers subjects as conventional as unrequited love and as contemporary as the economy and the victims of the current war. It includes elegies to those who have died in flight, drowning in their bid to cross the Mediterranean. But when among his comrades, the most popular tunes are his paeans to the Peshmerga – “those who face death”. These are always well received and have the ability to animate a group of tired fighters training in a cold, steady drizzle in a way that we, with our translated encouragements, can only long for.

Slowly catching the attention of his fellow Peshmerga who begin to gather round, weapons slung and cigarettes lit, he starts to sing. Quietly at first, retaining a youthful self-consciousness, he soon gets into his stride, encouraged by the increasing accompaniment of the clapping crowd, who by the end, arms linked, have broken into a dance. Sometimes another Peshmerga will dare to join in, to the delight of everyone, as we are now in for a treat. The resulting lyrical exchange – part duet, part duel – is a tense one and clearly hard fought (even to those who can’t fully comprehend it). The result rarely seems in doubt, with the youthful and diminutive Farman usually emerging victorious. The encounters hold a particular appeal for some of our younger soldiers, attuned as they are to a similar style of adversarial performance in rap music.

more here.