Master of Kurdish Dengbêjs Karapetê Xaço Passes Away – By Mutlu Civiroglu

Kurdish people lost their influential living Dengbêj Karapetê Xaço on January 15, 2005 in his village Yerevan, Armenia.

Karapetê Xaço was born in Bileyder (Beshiri) in the Kurdish city of Batman in Turkey, in 1902. He lost his entire family in the Armenian Genocide in 1915 but was luckily rescued and raised by a Kurdish family.

In 1929, after the Sheikh Said uprising, together with many Kurds who were massacred by the Turks, Xaço fled to the city of Qamishlo in Syrian Kurdistan which was then controlled by the French and afterwards joined the French army and served there for 15 years and 3 months. After long years of service in the French army he retired and was offered to be flown to France; however, he refused this offer.

In 1946 Xaço and his family moved to Armenia and settled in Vozkihader village of Yerevan and lived there until his death. After the opening of the Kurdish Service of Yerevan Radio, Xaço began to sing on the radio programs in 1955.

In an interview, Xaço retells his experiences: “In Soviet era it was forbidden to sing about aghas, feudal lords and God. Whenever I was singing a “kilam” they were interfering by saying this one is about an agha, this is about a feudal and god is mentioned in this song! And I always responded, well, what shall I sing about then?”

Karapetê Xaço worked for Radio Yerevan for many years. During these years his voice reached the hearts of each and every Kurd all over Kurdistan. It is hard to imagine a single Kurd who hasn’t been captivated by his “kilams”.

Very well-known Kurdish ballads Eyshana Elî, Evdalê Zeynikê, Diyarbekir Peytext e, Edulê, Çume Cizîrê, Filîtê Quto, Zembîlfirosh, Dewreshê Evdî, Meyrê and many other kilams were first sung by him. “Lawikê Metinî”, a beautiful kilam about the love of an Ezidi Kurdish man and a Moslem Kurdish girl, has been sung by many dengbêj and singers but none of them as affective and soulful as Karapetê Xaço.

Each time one listens to this kilam, Ape Karapet’s voice, together with the heart-rending mey (traditional flute) of Egidê Cimo, takes you far away to Kurdistan…

“I began singing when I was 8 years old in Kurdistan and I sang all my kilams in Kurdish. You can not find even one kilam in other languages including Armenian. I am Kurdish and I sing all my kilams in Kurdish. I never sang for money, in dengbêj tradition it is a shame to sing for money. I can sing for a whole month, day and night without a break”.

Karapetê Xaço befriended the prominent Kurdish writer and poet Cegerxwîn and famous dengbêj Mihemed Arifê Cizirî and Seyîdê Cizirî when he was in Qamishlo. Xaço not only served the Kurdish dengbêj tradition and oral literature by singing hundreds of kilams and passing on them to new generations but also educated many dengbêjs in Armenia among the Ezidi Kurds and inspired countless new dengbêjs and singers to sing and serve the Kurdish music.

Karapetê Xaço was 103 years old when he passed away. He has 1 son and 4 daughters as well as 15 grand children. He was buried on Saturday with the participation of thousands of people including Keremê Seyyad of Kurdish Service of Yerevan Radio, Emerîkê Serdar and Karlenê Çaçan of Kurdish Newspaper Rîya Teze, Çerkezê Resh of Kurdistan Committee of Armenia, Egîdê Cimo, Feyzoyê Rizo, prominent Kurdish musicians and many others. In his funeral, his son Seyrosh Karapet said “although my father was of Armenian origin, he felt closer to the Kurds, and for this reason he served Kurdish music as a dengbêj. He always felt deeply the grief and sorrow of the Kurdish people who have long suffered at least as much as the Armenian people and wanted to express this pain with Kurdish kilams”.

Çerkezê Resh of the Kurdistan Committee of Armenia, in his speech said, “Karapetê Xaço has made priceless contributions to Kurdish dengbêj tradition and music and he was buried in to the heart of Kurdistan. When I was in Amed, for the Kurdish Language and Literature Conference, everyone was asking about Karapetê Xaço’s situation with great interest and I myself forwarded those special wishes from the hearth of Kurdistan, Amed to him. He was very happy to hear that Kurds had never forgotten him. Karapetê Xaço was not only a great dengbêj but also a bridge of brotherhood between the Kurdish and Armenia peoples. We will never forget him”.

Ape Karapet has always had a very speacial place for me. Each time I listen to his voice, I get lost in thoughts and begin to a trip from Mount Ararat to Cizira Botan, from Lawikê Metînî to Dewreshê Evdî, from to Filitê Quto to Eyshana Elî, from Xezal to Edule, from Evdalê Zeynike to Zembilfrosh. When I first heard he passed away, I immediately called Keremê Seyyad of Radio Yerevan, Kurdish Service with the hope of hearing that the news was untrue. Unfortunately it was true and Keremê Seyyad was very sad but he was trying to give me consolation. Each time I was calling Yerevan, I was asking Apê Karapet’s situation and each time Keremê Seyyad was assuring me that he was fine. What a pity that the last time I called him it was different because Karapetê Xaço had decided to go and leave behind the kilams as orphans…

Thank you very much for all your service to Kurdish music and oral literature. Thank you very much for your friendship.

Thank you very much the master of Dengbêjs.

May God Bless You, Apê Karapet.

Lawikê Metînî

Lê lê dayîkê heyranê de tu rabe

Xwe ke bi Xwedê ke roja Şemîyê

Serê min bişo û xemla  min bike

Bisk û temerîka min li ber enîka min de çêke

Hey lê lê………… hey delalê

Heval û hogirê me çune Mexrub û Şêxa

Tev alîka di gelîkî kur da

Keçik digot, lê lê dayik heyranê

Bişîne pey Lawikê Metînê delalê malê

Bira beyê nava sing û berê min keçikê

Herke tê min dixwaze bila gelo bê, min bixwaze

Herke tê min direvîne bila bê, min birevîne

Herke min narevîne sibê dê min birê kin

Hey lê lê…………. hey delalê

Ax feleka me xayîn e welle me dixapîne

Min re nayê hey domê

Dengbêj: Kurdish musicians who have very special talents to sing kilams which are special kinds of ballads mixture of a song and story which is generally telling a historical story or event as well as the life of a Kurdish hero or heroine, which were passed out from mouth to mouth for hundreds of years.

Apê Karapet: Means Uncle Karapet. Kurds were calling Karapetê Xaço as Apê Karapet which symbolizes love and respect.

Uxir be Apê Karapet,

Rêya te vekirî be Xortê Kurmancan,

Mirê Dengbêjan…