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.