Diyarbakir Deng Bej / by Cyrus

Diyarbakir's Deng Bej house: a place where old men gather to drink startling quantities of tea and argue about Kurdish history.

Which describes every public square in this city. The difference here? These old men sing. Powerfully. From depths I can't imagine.

The music, banned until 1991, is famous for keeping the Kurdish language alive during decades of repression in Turkey. The songs are long, a single voice accompanied only by murmurs of agreement from the gathered crowd. The stories are about Kurdish history, politics, and love, the details and order often improvised. Each man has a voice and a style -- certain words that he repeats, certain rhyming patterns he employs, certain politicians he hates. It's impossible to annotate or formalize Deng Bej, though some have tried. When one person stops another picks up, breaking only for tea and bootleg cigarettes. The crowd gets unruly, sometimes talking over the singer, but the only thing that will stop a singer from finishing his song is the call to prayer, blasting in 5.1 surround from the tinny speakers atop the nearby mosques. More a matter of convenience than religious observance, it seems.

I spent the whole day there, and I'll start a piece about the undoubted star Saeed Khan tomorrow. Today I tried to keep my camera down and enjoy the music. But sometimes I couldn't help it, so here's a short clip that doesn't do any sort of justice to this amazing sound (click link):

Deng Bej, Diyarbakir, 29 January, 2014