Hajar Zahawy

Do Jar

Hajar Zahawy - Do Jar © Hajar Zahawy “Do Jar” brings various Kurdish rhythms together and combines multiple distinct sound sources (instruments and synthesizers), providing the listener with an aural feel for how Kurdistan sounds.

“Do Jar” means “Twice” and is a sort of meditation on the duality of the two main percussive instruments being used; the bandir (frame drum), and the daf (another type of frame drum).

The latter is considered the national instrument of the Kurdish people. The daire (a frame drum from Azerbaijan) also subtly accompanies the two, bringing together percussive instruments from different geographic regions with Kurdish ties. Zahawy deliberately played rhythms with triple and double timings on the daf, while experimenting with performance technique, ways of using the instrument, and its sounds.

Because Kurdish culture relies on oral histories, music plays an integral part in preserving events from deaths to births, invasions to massacres. It also often refers to religious themes and seasonal events like the harvest, focusing on nature. The daf helps tell these stories through its beats and rhythms. Unlike other percussive instruments, it is played with two hands at once, making it more challenging to play. For this composition, Zahawy innovated his technique in how he plays the daf.

Zahawy used rhythms found mainly in Sufi ritual ceremonies in this track, acquired through experience and engrained in his memory. He also used sound design to add ambience to the music.

“I deliberately played rhythms with triple and double timings on the daf, while experimenting with performance technique, ways of using the instrument, and its sounds”

Composer: Hajar Zahawy
Arrangement: Hajar Zahawy
Instruments:  Daf, bandir, daire (Azerbaijan), bass drum, synth, various types of frame drums from different traditions.
Date of original composition/work: n/a
Recorded: August 2021
Lyrics:  n/a



Hajar Zahawy - Jiyan © Hajar Zahawy Jiyan combines two integral parts of Kurdish heritage: percussion and poetry. The relationship between music and spoken word (poetry) is deeply rooted as a vessel for documenting culture in Kurdistan and Iraq. Due to the history of the two territories, both Kurdish and Arabic are used in Kurdistan, but after Kurdistan achieved autonomy from Iraq in 1991, Kurdish became the official language and Arabic became increasingly secondary.

Representing this linguistic dualism in music, Zahawy chose two poems recited in Arabic and Kurdish. From Kurdish poetic heritage he chose “XYZ” by renowned poet Sherko Bekas, who is from Suleymani in the north. From Arabic heritage he chose a poem by esteemed Iraqi poet Bader Shaker Al-Sayyab titled “Matar” (Rain).

Both poets were innovative pioneers within the realm of poetry, freeing their words from strict meters and norms. While both talk about love, life, and pain, Sherko’s emphasis on music and hearing comes from the poet’s unique approach to poetry called “Sorani,” through which he distances himself and measures life from different angles. The poetry portrays the suffering and alienation experienced by Kurds and points to the poet’s strong connection with his land. Al-Sayyab’s piece “Rain” draws from the mythical history of Iraq, reviving Babylonian symbols and bringing back ancient gods and goddesses such as Ashtar. He also focuses on palm trees as symbols of Iraq, drawing near no matter how distant he is.

The words of the two poets from south and north are melodically accompanied by the oud, in addition to rhythmic percussive beats and atmospheric sounds. The track invites the listener to imagine geographies beyond the sounds, and the two poetic recitations in Arabic and Kurdish flow in harmony.

Lyricists/poets: Bader Shaker Al-Sayyab, Sherko Bekas
Composer: Hajar Zahawy
Arrangement: Hajar Zahawy
Instruments:  Dohol, daf, dayire, bandir, shakers, frame drums, oud[1] , cajun
Reciters: Khanda Ismail (Kurdish), Jarer Mohammed Al Abdulwahid
Sound design: Siyawash Kamkar
Date of original composition/work: n/a
Recorded: August 2021
Lyrics:   n/a


The Why Behind the Music

Hajar Zahawy

Kurdish culture and music are as diverse as the territories in which Kurdish culture has flourished; from Iraq to Iran, Armenia, Syria, and Turkey. Due to the centuries-long geographical fragmentation of Kurdish people, political oppression and the absence of centralized Kurdish cultural institutions, Kurdish music has developed through folk and popular practice. Each region has formed its own musical characteristics as felt in performance (or “Ada’ أداء”), vocals, rhythms, instruments, and formations. 
As a Kurdish artist I have always wanted to keep my musical heritage alive and spread its richness as far and wide as possible, especially because we as Kurdish people have rarely had a chance to promote our culture due to the injustices and discrimination we have faced. For this exhibition, I wanted to bring together the diversity of Kurdish cultural heritage through my musical compositions.  
However, it was difficult to find archival materials to work with as the documentation, dissemination and preservation of Kurdish culture through cultural institutions is a rather contemporary occurrence of the past three decades, and much of Kurdish heritage is still preserved orally. Therefore, rather than relying on archives, my compositions have been inspired by the rich practical inventory that our teachers and musicians have passed on to students at events and social gatherings, in addition to available Kurdish recordings. 
In my composition for Mirath:Music, I combined sounds from the Sufi heritage and the Kurdish repertoire, leading with percussive instruments, the Kurdish frame drum daf, the bandir, and poetry. I also used digital technologies to fuse these elements with contemporary sounds; for me, innovation is the path for preservation. 

Interview with Hajar Zahawy