Kurdish music refers to music performed in the Kurdish languages and Zaza-Gorani languages.[1][2] The earliest study of Kurdish music was initiated by the renowned Armenian priest and composer Komitas in 1903,[3] when he published his work "Chansons kurdes transcrites par le pere Komitas" which consisted of twelve Kurdish melodies which he had collected.[4] The Armenian Karapetê Xaço also preserved many traditional Kurdish melodies throughout the 20th century by recording and performing them.[5] In 1909, Scholar Isya Joseph published the work "Yezidi works" in which he documented the musical practice of the Yazidis including the role of the musician-like qewal figures and the instruments used by the minority.[6]

Kurdish music appeared in phonographs in the late 1920s, when music companies in Baghdad began recording songs performed by Kurdish artists.[7]

Despite being secondary to vocals, Kurds use many instruments in traditional music.[8] Musical instruments include the tembûr (see kurdish tanbur), bağlama, qernête, daf, duduk, kaval, long flute (şimşal),[9] kemenche,[10] oboe (zirne) and drum (dahol).[11]

Hassan Zirak, Kurdish folk singer


See also: Siyaw Chemane

Traditional Kurdish music is culturally distinct from Arabic, Armenian and Turkish music,[12] and mostly composed by people who remained anonymous.[13] Thematically, the music were of melancholic and elegiac character, but has since then incorporated more upbeat and joyous melodies.[14]

Kurdish folklore consists of three genres: the storytellers (çîrokbêj), bards (dengbêj) and popular singers (stranbêj).[15]

Moreover, there are religious-themed songs (lawje)[16] seasonal musical topics, for example "payizok" that are songs about the return to the summer pastures performed in autumn.[17] Kurdish improvisations are called teqsîm.[18]


In Iraq, tolerance for Kurdish music ceased with the Saddam regime (1979–2003) which put in place restrictions against Kurdish culture.[19] Between 1982 and 1991 the performance and recording of songs in Kurdish was also banned in Turkey.[8]


  1. ^ Robert F. Reigle (2013). "A brief history of Kurdish music recordings in Turkey". Hellenic Journal of Music Education, and Culture. 4 (2). ISSN 1792-2518.
  2. ^ Lewkowitz, Joshua (30 May 2019). "Who are the heroes, hustlers and innovators of Kurdish wedding music?". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  3. ^ Sylvia Angelique Alajaji (2015). Music and the Armenian diaspora : searching for home in exile. Indiana University Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0253017765.
  4. ^ Komitas (1903). "Mélodies kurdes recueillies par Archimandrite Comitas" (PDF) (in Armenian). Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  5. ^ Salih Kevirbirı̂ (2002). Karapetê Xaço: bir çiǧliǧin yüzyili (in Turkish). Sı̂ Yayınları.
  6. ^ Mohammad Ali Merati (2015). "Les formes fondamentales de la musique kurde d'Iran et d'Irak : hore, siâw-çamane, danses, maqâm" (PDF). Milieux cultures et sociétés du passé et du présent (in French). L'Université Paris Nanterre. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  7. ^ Tony Langlois (2011). Non-Western Popular Music. Ashgate: Farnham. ISBN 9780754629849.
  8. ^ a b Dorian, Frederick; Duane, Orla; McConnachie, James (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides. pp. 249. ISBN 9781858286358.
  9. ^ Alak K. Ardalan (2015). The Black Desert. ISBN 9781504939911.
  10. ^ Eliot Bates (2016). Digital Tradition: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul's Recording Studio Culture. p. 289. ISBN 9780190215767.
  11. ^ Wendelmoet Hamelink (2016). The Sung Home. Narrative, Morality, and the Kurdish Nation. p. 164.
  12. ^ Abdul Mabud Khan (2001). Encyclopaedia of the world Muslims: tribes, castes and communities, 2. University of Michigan: Abdul Mabud Khan. p. 799. ISBN 8187746084.
  13. ^ Lokman I. Meho, Kelly L. Maglaughlin (2001). Kurdish Culture and Society: An Annotated Bibliography. p. 218. ISBN 9780313315435.
  14. ^ April Fast (2005). Iraq: The Culture. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 17. ISBN 9780778793205.
  15. ^ B. Schott's Söhne (1979). Monde de la Musique, 21 (in French). p. 20.
  16. ^ Sebastian Maisel (2018). The Kurds: An Encyclopedia of Life, Culture, and Society. p. 205. ISBN 9781440842573.
  17. ^ Philip G. Kreyenbroek (2010). Oral Literature of Iranian Languages: Kurdish, Pashto, Balochi, Ossetic, Persian and Tajik. ISBN 9780857732651.
  18. ^ Fabian Richter. Identität, Ethnizität und Nationalismus in Kurdistan (in German and English). p. 328.
  19. ^ Anthony Gorman, Andrew Newman. Jamie, Sokes (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. p. 393.

Further reading