The Construction of Kurdish Identity Through Music in Turkey

The Kurdish culture has been officially rejected in Turkey for a long time; this is traced back to the late Ottoman period and has continued to the present era. The performance of Kurdish music in Turkey has not been stable since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, when government censorship suppressed the efforts of Kurdish singers to communicate their ideas. Music in Turkey has been deeply investigated by the government since the 1920s to date, in order to ensure that music will contribute to the Turkish state narrative and not portray the government in a wrong way. Ethnicity is a major issue of concern in determining the kind of music that is allowed to flourish in Turkey. Therefore, this has limited every effort to produce Kurdish music in Turkey. The government of Turkey has thereby ensured that the Kurdish identity is moving toward erosion. The few practitioners of Kurdish music believe that their music is still facing criticism, and some of these musicians have even been exiled. Therefore, to have a better understanding of the role that music plays in supporting Kurdish identity in Turkey, I will analyze the stages through which Kurdish music has struggled to survive under the Republic of Turkey. Music is considered a universal language, which conveys messages that matter. Yet, what happens when music is censored? My research will cover how Kurdish music has served as the basis for Kurdish “identity construction”, despite government censorship and the threat of eliminating Kurdish identity during the 20th century. Some questions to be considered in the research include: Can music strengthen the bond between Kurds and Turks despite their cultural differences? What is the future of Kurdish music?