Her new album, “Breath of Nahrain,” is a case in point. It is a compilation of the rich melodies of Mesopotamia — the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that is often mentioned to as ‘the cradle of civilization,’ but is now known as a region of conflict and instability.
The five tracks on the album are sung in Kurdish, Kurmanci, Zazaki, Armenian and Assyrian — covering Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Armenia; a reflection of the area’s diverse history and culture. The album’s recently released first single, the Kurdish-language “Heyran Jaro,” for example, is based on a love song familiar to the region’s nomadic tribes.
The album’s recently released first single, the Kurdish-language “Heyran Jaro,” is based on a love song familiar to the region’s nomadic tribes.
“The song is about two lovers who cannot be together,” Chakar said. “It resembles the big, mad scene — a 15-minute rollercoaster ride of very extravagant music — in Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor.’”
“Heyran Jaro” is not an obvious choice for a single. But, as Chakar explained: “I couldn’t interrupt the lyrics of this love story. I wanted to abide by its spirit,” she said.
It was no easy task for Chakar to put the album together. She was meticulous in her approach to ensuring she was singing these ancient languages properly, and in adapting the folk-song source material into operatic form.
But her insistence on singing in Kurdish has cost her in the past, as it does with most singers who sing in Kurdish. Chakar’s several concerts are being cancelled in Turkey and harsh criticism coming from conservative circles. Still, Chakar felt it was too important a record to be dissuaded from releasing it.