l Tradition ! against tyranny
Sue Wilson previews performances of Kurdish music and movement.
With reports trickling in about how the much-vaunted ‘safe haven‘ for Kurds in Iraq is becoming less safe by the day — UN guard forces dwindling, aid channels drying up - it‘s sobering to reﬂect on the extent to which public interest in the Kurds has died away. especially since it was public outrage that pushed reluctant Western governments into action in the first place. It‘s more than timely. then, that a group of UK-based Kurdish musicians and dancers should be performing on the Fringe. using ‘traditional folklore to challenge international oppression’ and— they hope— reminding audiences that their people‘s problems have not gone away.
Kurdistan is currently divided between five countries —- Iran. Iraq. Syria, Azerbaijan and Turkey - each ofwhich has its own self-interested reasons for resisting Kurdish
demands for independence. ‘In all these countries. every single
government is like a Hitler.‘ says Bahram. a professional singer-composer and ex-freedom fighter who has organised the show for the Fringe. ‘Directly and indirectly they are killing us. destroying us. killing our children. our women, our old people. Every single family has a martyr. They are destroying our land with chemical weapons, polluting our water. cutting down all the trees. They can do all these things, they are free to do them, but they cannot kill our voice, our culture. our music. because our traditions are much stronger than any government in the world; a government can kill a person. but his :)ackground. his music and art will
still be alive.‘ ' It is indeed a testament to the
remarkable resilience of Kurdish culture that. after centuries of often brutal oppression. traditional art forms remain a strong and vibrant living force. the potency of which is signalled by governments’ targeting of artists and musicians during crack-downs on ‘subversives‘. The strength ofthese traditions. according to Bahram. is due in part to their diversity. shaped by the
geographical variation within Kurdistan and the tribal structure of the society.
‘Kurdish culture is very, very rich; for every occasion we have different music. different dances -— farming songs. love songs. political songs. war songs. hunting songs, songs for the birth of a baby, laments for the dead, songs to celebrate an escape from death. We use music from the past and the present as the language to explain our happiness. our sadness. our problem. And every tribe. from every region has a different way of speaking and of singing. There is also a type ofsong called [010 and heyram, which tells a story and is very long; it might tell the story ofa leader. and it will include all the background. the whole story in song— that is why we cannot lose our history. Our music comes out ofour society. our history. our feelings; when I compose a love song, it will be about love for a girl. but that will connect with love for the country, because with both you are suffering.‘
Ultimately. Kurdish traditional art is simply an expression of a people's humanity. a humanity which is denied by the systematic oppression to which they are subjected. and by Western connivance in that oppression. Bahram expresses his hope that the show will attract large audiences. because ‘Kurdish culture is like a baby— it needs to be hugged by a lot ofpeople.‘
I Kurdish Song and Dance (Fringe) Quaker Meeting House (Venue 40) 2206109. 24—26. 28 Aug 3pm; 27 Aug 7pm. £4 (£3)
Six pianos? Not, perhaps, your everyday line-up, but not without precedent either. American minimalist composer Steve Reich wrote his composition ‘Slx Pianos' for his own ensemble back in 1973, and it was that particular piece of music which brought together the six young musicians who currently constitute Piano Circus.
Four oi the six members— Richter, Kirsteen Davidson-Kelly, Richard Harris, Kate Heath, John Wood and Ginny Strawston - met initially at University in Edinburgh, and the other two were friends in London. The repertoire for six pianos is not a
crowded one, however, and they have had to commission most of their
subsequent work, with the exception of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’, which is readily adaptable to many instrumentations. ‘The challenge oi writing for six pianos may frighten people, but while it is limited in flexibility in terms of sound, we tend just to forget about the lack oi tone colours, and concentrate on the immense textural possibilities and effects we can get from this many notes, and from very complex and
precise rhythms. We have been playing the Reich ior three years now, but we still find it consistently challenging, and the way we play it has definitely changed. it is a lot less funky nowl'
Current commissions include three new pieces by Graham Fitkin, which will make up theirthird CD from Argo in September, and a work by the South African composer Kevin Volans, which they expect later in the year.
“People definitely have trouble understanding what we do,’ admits Richter, ‘especiaily promoters. The way in which the group works together is more like a jazz band, although the
; music is definitely contemporary
classical, and i think some people have tended to write us off as a gimmick for that reason, but we are very serious indeed about the music we play.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
Piano Circus (Fringe) Assembly At The Meadows (Venue 116) 229 9281, 22-31 Aug, 4pm, £6.50 (£5).
f. I The Liberty Cage Singer-songwriters Paul Simmonds and Phil (‘Swill‘) Odgers from the late, lamented English folk/rock group The Men They Couldn‘t Hang in their new band. which follows on from their previous work but with a more flexible. but still rousing. sound. With guests The Tender Trap. The Liberty ( age (Fringe) Marco is ( Venue 98) 228 2 I 4 I. 2 7--3() .4 ug. l()pm. I Peter Donohoe A brilliant pianist in the first two ofa series of three recitals featuring all of Tchaikovksy‘s major works for piano. Described as ‘the pianist of his generation‘. Donohoe partners Tchaikovsky. the Festival‘s featured composer. with Chopin for his first programme and Schumann for the next. Peter Donohoe (International Festival), Queen 's Hall (Venue 72 225 5756.21ar11124Aug. Ham. [st—£10. I Cambridgeshire County Youth Orchestra In a rather imaginative piece of programme planning. this orchestra. on its first foray north of the border. plays works by two leading British women composers. Elizabeth Maconchy and Nicola Lefanu. who just happen to be mother and daughter. Plus Mahler‘s Symphony No 1. Elgar Howath conducts. Cambridgeshire County Youth Orchestra (Fringe) Central Hall (Venue 100), 229 793 7, 26 Aug. 7. 30pm, £5 ( £3 / free ) . I Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar And Grill Chris Calloway (yes. daughter of Cab) is Billie Holiday in this stirring and emotional recreation of a concert late in the singer‘s tragic life. As much theatre as it is music. but a must for anyone who cares about Lady Day‘s music. Lady Day A! Emerson 's Bar/i nd Grill (Fringe) George Square Theatre (Venue 37) 650 2001 . until 5 i Sept (not 23. 28—30 Aug). midnight. £7 (£5).
The List 21 — 27 August 1992 55