Legendary Zaza Composer, Intellectual Mikail Aslan

By Hamo Moskofian, Russelheim-Wiesbaden, Germany, 6 August 2010 

"We simply returned centuries-old Dersim Armenian songs and cultural heritage to you–the Armenians…Zazas are the closest people in Anatolia to the Armenian nation in every respect. We are Kirvas (kavors)."

Recently, upon the invitation of NIG-ABARAN Society in Armenia, Mikail Aslan and Zafer Kucuk presented several concerts in Armenia. Together with the AGOUNK (Roots) ensemble they offered magnificent performances in Yerevan and elsewhere, attended by a big "army" of patriots, music lovers, artists and state officials.
 

By Hamo Moskofian, Russelheim-Wiesbaden, Germany, 6 August 2010 

"We simply returned centuries-old Dersim Armenian songs and cultural heritage to you–the Armenians…Zazas are the closest people in Anatolia to the Armenian nation in every respect. We are Kirvas (kavors)."

Recently, upon the invitation of NIG-ABARAN Society in Armenia, Mikail Aslan and Zafer Kucuk presented several concerts in Armenia. Together with the AGOUNK (Roots) ensemble they offered magnificent performances in Yerevan and elsewhere, attended by a big "army" of patriots, music lovers, artists and state officials.
 

It was a great honour to meet Aslan and Kucuk in the latter's spacious house in Wiesbaden, shortly after their return from Armenia. They had just released their sixth album of songs dedicated to centuries-old Armenian and Anatolian folk music. The album is named "PETAG" (beehive–the same meaning in Zaza and in Armenian). Aslan is an accomplished musician and Kucuk, who boasts of his Armenian roots, is a master of the Armenian doudouk. He tells me that his parents were adopted by the Kizilbash of Dersim, after narrowly escaping the Genocide of 1915 and the 1937 massacres by Turkey.

At the beginning of our meeting–as old friends who had not yet met–we hugged and I thanked Aslan, this courageous Zaza, for his invaluable cultural and ideological services and struggle. Like many other Zazas, Aslan is tall, handsome and friendly. I asked him for the reasons of his dedication to the Armenian and Dersim music.

"We simply returned centuries-old Dersim Armenian songs and cultural heritage to you, the Armenians…Zazas are the closest people in Anatolia to the Armenians in every respect. We are kirvas (kavors– in-laws). ..We also have so many words in common besides petag–like khash, herissa and others," said Aslan. He went on to tell, "Recently I received an email from Turkish journalist Kemal Bashar, where he noted that mentioning the Armenian Genocide in my album is a crime in Turkish law! He suggested the word Boyuk Feleket ("Great Disaster") instead. I replied that I will stand by my words and Boyuk Feleket in Turkish is referred to natural disasters! How can I forget, I told him on the phone, the horrible stories told by my mother and grandmothers secretly, about Armenian relatives thrown from the cliffs, children and women who were raped, villages and towns burned down and thousands of people massacred in front of them at every corner of Dersim and Western Armenia? Isn't this called GENOCIDE?

"We saved and hid many Armenians in our houses and barns, putting ourselves in great danger,'' said Aslan. "Once I asked my mother why, for years, she hadn't told me the Armenian identity of our neighbours? She answered me in a horrified tone, “Don’t you know that the penalty for saving an Armenian was death itself? We took to great risks, because they were our neighbours for centuries on the same land…"

Aslan continued, "the Armenian nation is one of the oldest that has inhabited this territory, much older than the Zazas. Their cultural heritage and accomplishments are ours too. Giving back life to it will complete our identity, too. The Dersim Armenian songs that we presented were composed before and after the 1915 Genocide. They belonged to Bingol, Elazig, Mush, Erzerum and Western Armenian musical treasury, in pure Armenian, not in the Zaza language. In 1915, a family from Dersim's Chmshgazak village escaped and settled in Boston. There, a brilliant student of Komidas school, Mihran Toumajian, contacted Jelalian and Baghrian families, studied youth singing Dersim songs and saved the gems of Dersim. Those were all Armenian and it was later that they were passed on to us.

"In our PETAG album we included the Dersim song of 1937 issued in New York, Vartan Margossian sang in Turkish. We thank renowned artist, singer Ilda Simonian (also for her archives), Luvent Gunesh, Dikran Hagopian, Lilit Simonian, Maro Muradian and the AGOUNK Ensemble, Hasan Saltuk, Mirdan Ziryab, Salime Gundaz and others who realized our great dream as another step towards the unification of our nations' cultures. I can also sing in Armenian and participated in the choral during the concerts in Armenia," concluded Aslan with a smile.

Before departing for a short visit to his fatherland, after years of exile from Turkey, we met once more Aslan in Wiesbaden at a cafe. His young niece was accompanying him–a marvellous Zaza beauty. It seemed as if the Armenian goddess Asdghik was in our presence.

 

Enjoy a sample from Petag Album

1 comment
  1. Congratulations

    I hardly knew about the Zaza a decade ago but recently a friend from Dersim gave me an unexpected gift, the CD Petak.

    What a wonderful reconstruction of music which was lost and buried like much of the grand history and highly developed culture of historic Armenian provinces in present day Turkey which was deliberately dismantled and destroyed or stolen and misattributed after the Genocide. I congratulate the composers, producers and performers, all worked to achieve a high degree of authenticity and inventiveness in restoring and bringing it back to life. 

    This collaboration between excellent musicians from Armenia, Turkey and the Diaspora, shows great sensitivity in respecting the folklore traditions which were exceptionally rich in the Armenian provinces exemplified by the superb textiles, carpets, silverwork, pottery and other artifacts I have examined in the History Museum of Yerevan. Since the majority of Armenian ethnography was lost in Turkey it has become all the more precious.

    On this CD each track has its own character, flavour with marvellous singers and excellent instrumentation on authentic instruments.  Petak is one of the best collections I have heard and deserves to be widely heard, broadcast and praised. I look forward to the next Petak.
     

Comments are closed.

You May Also Like