As both a Kurd and an Alevi, Aynur Doğan’s cultural heritage has always been subject to discriminatory laws and public persecution, whether in the small mountain town of Çemişgezek where she grew up, or the metropolis of Istanbul. With her music, however, singer and bağlama player Doğan – now usually known simply as Aynur – creates space for her identities and for those that share them.
At its core, Aynur’s music is based on Kurdish folk songs. Her voice – in turns bold and powerful or delicate, almost fragile – always holds these centuries-old melodies in tender embrace. She carries these songs as a caretaker and a friend. She preserves the Kurdish and Alevi songs against those that would have them silenced, but at the same time, those songs give her the strength to continue as a commanding voice in support of those cultures.
Tradition doesn’t restrict Aynur’s music, though. Her own style blends the Kurdish and the Western, and collaborations with world-class musicians from many fields (including Yo-Yo Ma, Kayhan Kalhor, Mercan Dede and Javier Limón) have led to a passionate, international fanbase. Her accessible music allows her to spread her words far and wide.
This popularity and her outspoken nature has made her the target of right-wing and anti-Kurd groups in Turkey. Her shows became marred by disruptions, leading Aynur to move her base to Amsterdam in 2012. This has not dampened her fire: the most recent of her seven albums, 2020’s Hedûr, went to #1 on the world music charts and has led to a concert in Carnegie Hall (understandably postponed for now).
It is for her long-term dedication to the preservation and innovation of Kurdish and Alevi culture, for maintaining the highest artistic integrity in the face of political pressure and, in doing so, for being a model for all that sing against the silencers, that Aynur Doğan is a very worthy recipient of the WOMEX 21 Artist Award.
The past year-and-a-half has been one of the most drastic and challenging periods of change in the history of the international music industry. Almost at once, and with very little warning, a world’s worth of live music disappeared, and musicians and audiences alike scrambled to find new ways of reaching each other without leaving their homes.
But adversity leads to innovation, and that’s where Global Music Match comes in. The heart of the premise is simple: folk- and roots-based musicians uplifting and promoting each other, mobilising each other’s audiences and creating new professional networks.
Each cycle of GMM takes place over 12 weeks. Teams are formed of six artists, each from a different country or region, and each gets their own two-week spotlight across the whole team’s social media channels, as well as a dedicated mentoring ‘coach’. These spotlights are a flurry of activity including interviews, live sets, unreleased material and exclusive – entirely digital – collaborations. After two editions, 172 artists – and many thousands of fans – have participated and benefitted from this mutual support network and inspirational knowledge exchange with the help of music export offices from 17 countries and regions from around the world.
The exciting part of GMM is that it is not just a temporary quick-fix. It’s a new form of music export and cultural exchange, and one that is not necessarily anchored to the current situation. It is a real and effective way for artists to expand their audience in terms of numbers, as well as into new territories, opening up the possibility for new touring avenues post-pandemic, and showing a ‘good practice’ model for all.
For creating, at such short notice, a new and innovative platform that has already seen long-lasting and tangible benefits, for celebrating musical diversity, and for being a source of optimism and comfort to musicians in a time of great struggle, we are delighted that Global Music Match will receive the WOMEX 21 Professional Excellence Award.