“I call myself an half-Indian”: Kurdish singer Mico Kedes at 5th Udaipur World Music Festival

Kurdish singer Kedes now lives in Switzerland but still longs for his motherland which is embroiled in a tense and violent situation. He tries to speak for his people in his songs whenever he can

Kurdish singer Mico Kedes (left)
Kurdish singer Mico Kedes (left)

Sudipto Mullick

Walking in a little late to this concert, the only concern was finding a quick seat, any seat- be it the bleachers on the left or the laid out chairs, not where you sat. By then, Mico Kedes' evocative vocal callisthenics with its sustained, lush and exquisite quiver - he also plays (self-taught) the Buzuq - appositely accompanied by François Clavel's expert restrain with his counterpoints on the Daf, had taken the coterie in its grip, not to leave out the mesmerized man-made Pinchola lake, overlooking the Manjari ka Ghat (Ambari Ghat), the venue of this exposition or the grey-tone Aravalli hills that back-grounded the setting in its sombre silence. Not in a habit of dispensing platitudes, factoring in the early morning inertia, this was truly a rapturous experience.

Moments after the performance when we could figure out our speech we but had to ask him, "How can there be a song in the heart when there is a war going on in the land? A little wilful smile and the answered flowed, "There will always be music....no doubt about it. There are many people like me who are doing music. There are weddings and other celebrations. There is lots of trouble, so all the more people need to be made to be happy. It is difficult, increasingly so, but there is and always will be music."

Kedes now has settled in Switzerland - "I am French, I'm Swiss but I'm also a Kurd.....and I'll forever remain a Kurd in my heart. That is my identity., he was quick to clarify. Despite strong fellownanship, the scar perhaps still rankles. "No, I don't want to go back to those places where I'm from. My memory is scarred and it's traumatic to revisit of even face the situation again.", said, he. So the songs that he sings - "Is it Dastgah", I enquired; "Yes", he affirmed - does it have to be informed by politics of the land and the living, almost by compulsion?".

Giving it a moment, he replied that, "Sometimes....A little perhaps when I'm speaking for my people but the songs that I sing are not at all political. In fact, my repertoire comes from mythology - it's about kings and queens and their stories. Let me tell you, my way of contributing to the Kurd identify - I've identified traditional Kurdish songs, hundreds of them and conserving them by bringing them back to life. "The last tune - was it a folk tune", I inquired. Taken aback, he simply stated, "Oh, you got that".

Mention of mythology and his maiden visit opened the floodgates of his indic admiration.  Kedes was on : "It may be my first time physically but I know so much about your culture, the literature and music, it's very vast and very rich. In fact I call myself a half-Indian. Look at me (rubbing the sides of his face simultaneously with both of his palms)  ...I can very well pass of as an Indian. (Lookwise he can pass off as a Himachali)."

Now enthusiasm had taken the better of him: "The language that we have is called Indo-European language. There are many common terms in our languages like rakth (blood), khreim (cream), paneer and the likes."

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Published: 16 Feb 2020, 7:30 PM