Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

Music as weapon: Heroic lyrical epics as tools in the PKK’s struggle

19 Sep 2023 - 16:28
Source: Kaveh the blacksmith is a famous lyrical epic

Long-form narrative songs of the genre ‘heroic lyrical epics’ have helped preserve Kurdish history and culture. They also represent a repertoire of ideals, values and inspiration to resist injustice and exclusion. The PKK has tapped into this rich musical history from its early days and used heroic lyrical epics to spread the party’s ideology, broadcast its struggle with Turkey, facilitate recruitment and create an archive to preserve the names of its foremost fighters. Moreover, the PKK has both popularized and professionalized heroic lyrical epics. By acting as a new patron for such music – in addition to the customary notables and village ‘dîwanxane’ (meeting places) – the PKK helped make heroic lyrical epics more accessible to Kurdish publics. By creating its own modern music industry (e.g. artists, studios, re-introducing past folklore elements, publishing houses), the PKK also aligned heroic lyrical epics with the spirit of modern times and the tastes of today’s youth. Professionalization especially took flight in northeastern Syria after 2011. Logically, the PKK’s motivations are less socio-cultural in nature than that they are centered on maintaining public support in its fight against Turkey.

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