EPISODE 6: Kurdistan, in the shelter of mountains

Table of Content


Hello, you’re listening to Padena. In Padena we picture Iran through music, literature and travelogues. This episode:  Kurdistan in the shelter of Mountains.

🎵 Ay la dlay gharibam, shoresh mahoudi

You’re listening to a Kurdish song by Shoresh Mahmoudi, a talented Kurdish musician.

Introduction of the episode

This episode is about a mythical region, people and culture as imposing as the highest mountains and as pure as the wildest forests are. Listen to some of the heart-touching Kurdish music, literature and cultural rituals. And hear about what the Kurdistan landscape looks like as the old and contemporary travellers describe. Free your soul in the hands of mystical tanbur melody, imagine you to be dancing Halparke in a circle of thrill. The sixth episode of Pandea is going to be a thin slice from Kurdistan in the shelter of mountains.

🎵 Hijrani Tu, Adnan Karim

You’re listening to Hijrani tu, a song from Adnan Karim, the prominent Kurdish singer and painter from Kirkuk, Iraq.

The sixth episode of Radio Padena is sponsored by tasteiran.net; an online tourism platform considering sustainable experiential travel to Iran.

No Friend but the Mountains

🎵 Malan Bar Kir, Berivane

Displaced from home, sang by Kurdish singer Aynur Dogan accompanied by the tar playing of Keyhan Kalhor.

Where do I come from? 

The land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains. Better to say I’ve come down from the summits. I’ve breathed in the ether up there. I’ve unleashed my hair to the wind up there. Out of a small village that stood in the middle of a forest of old chestnut oaks. 

In the past, we were weary of the war. That war wasn’t our war. That violence wasn’t our violence. War was uninvited. A calamity from the heavens just like a famine. Just like an earthquake. Do the Kurds have any friends other than the mountains?

You’re listening to some lines from the book “No friend, but the mountains” by the Iranian Kurdish writer Behrooz Boochani that Navid reads.

Boochani attempted to make his way to Australia by boat but was instead captured and imprisoned on Manus Island for five years. This book was sent on a mobile phone using WhatsApp in thousands of text messages in Farsi to his friend, Omid Tofighian and was translated into English by him.

The book narrates Boochani’s boat journey from Indonesia to Christmas Island in 2013, describing the lives (and deaths) of other detainees, the daily incidents, and reflecting on the system in which they are trapped. 

The name of this book has roots in Kurdish folklore saying. Among Kurds, it is common to use this proverb and say “He doesn’t have any friend rather than the mountain” for stating someone is very lonely in an exaggerated way.

No Friend but the Mountains won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Nonfiction in 2019.  Next, listen to a legend from the world’s longest epic poem about the Kurdish race and then the tanbur playing by Sohrab Pournazeri and singing of Donya Kamali.

Yes, I was born in the war, besides the smell of gunpowder and corps and the graveyard’s silence, in the period that the war was inside our homes and the blood our identity, I should say, I should cry out loud that I’m the child of war, fire, ashes, and the child of Kurdistan oaks. 

My mother always sighed and would say: ‘My boy, you came into this world in a time we called the flee and flight years.’ This phrase was commonplace during those miserable years. A time when people would run to the mountains from fear of the warplanes. Everything they had and could carry, they took with them. They found asylum within chestnut oak forests. Whoever couldn’t reach the mountains had to die. Do the Kurds have any friends other than the mountains? 

Again, it is those same chestnuts that became the solace for buried dreams. Those chestnuts were proud. Those chestnuts joined in mourning. Those chestnuts from those mountains. Only those chestnuts know how beautiful the dreams of maidens are. Dreams resting on the rocky slopes. Dreams dying there between the deep valleys, dying young. There alongside the coarse tree trunks. A short life ending inside dark forests.  On one side, Iraqi Ba’athists would empty their rounds. On the other side, Iranian zealots would open fire. In the middle were our home our homes left desolate. Their very name represented the defence of homeland and dignity. It was a war with no end, like all the other wars of history. A war with roots in earlier wars. And those wars had roots in other wars. A chain of wars born out of the nether regions of history. And so it was a seed of resentment that blossomed after centuries with the colour of blood once again. It was these very mountains that witnessed the spectacle. It was these ancient chestnut oaks that lamented.

Kurdish race in the Longest Epic Poem, Shahnameh

🎵 Tanbur and singing of Sohrab Pournazeri and Donya Kamali

The world’s longest epic poem as called in Persian “Shahnameh written by Abul Qasim Ferdowsi nearly one thousand years before, there is a story that Kurdish people refer their race’s root to it as it goes to tell: an evil king named Zahak, who had two snakes growing out of his shoulders, had conquered Iran and terrorized its subjects; demanding daily sacrifices in the form of young men’s brains. Unknowingly to Zahak, the cooks of the palace saved one of the men and mixed the brains of the other with those of a sheep. The men that were saved were told to flee to the mountains. Hereafter, Kaveh the Blacksmith, who had already lost several of his children to Zahak, trained the men in the mountains, and stormed Zahak’s palace, severing the heads of the snakes and killing the tyrannical king. Kaveh was instilled as the new king, and his followers formed the beginning of the Kurdish people. 

We have come from the far mountains… Ararat, Shaho, Hesa rost. In search of an affliction deep like a sea. If not, we would have never fallen down those high mountains. 

🎵 Cheni te nias delam, by Fardin Hossein Panahi

You listened to a part from a poem from the book “one night the sky was full of insane stars” by Bakhtiar Ali, a Kurdish novelist and poet. On the background you listened to a Kurdish music sang by Fardin Hossein Panahi and composed by the remarkable Kurdish poet Sherko Bikas.

Shaho is a mountain of the central Zagros Mountains range. It is located in the district of Kurdistan and Kermanshah Provinces, western Iran. Shaho Mountain has roots in the culture of this sacred region for Kurds that they put its name on their boys and is an inspiration source for Kurdish poets.

🎵 Ey ki min giriftaritom, salah najmeddin

Ey ki min giriftaritom by the first Kurdish rock singer, Salah Najmeddin.

Kurdistan trip, Palangan

In the following listen to a part of the travelogue by Coni’s voice on an earthy paradise of Kurdistan. Coni is a travel writer and photographer who has been looking for the most interesting travel experiences. In the background, you will be hearing Gol Gol, by the Kurdish music Band Brouska.

🎵 Gol gol, bruska band

The family that hosted me in Sanandaj offered to take me to Palangan so off we went. The road is breathtaking. Snowed peaks showing off behind the greenest hills, hiding and reappearing at every curve. And the company was even better. Mamam kept saying “dokhtaram” and “eshgham”, which I learned means “my daughter” and “my love”. My heart just melted for this woman. If I’ve only met her in Iran, the trip would have been worth it. But there was plenty more! Next to me was Rooyan, a shy 13-year old that didn’t say much at first, but ended up becoming my little sister. This beautiful young lady is smart, knowledgeable, and dreams of seeing the world. In my eyes, she represents the goodness of Iran. We went for a hike when we got to Palangan, so I spent a few hours walking next to her, learning about her worldviews and dreams.

Palangan is so special. This inhabited postcard is a stepped village, where someone’s roof is someone else’s yard. Less than a thousand people live there, spread over both sides of a steep valley, with the Sirwan River flowing in the middle. The entire village looks like a staircase carved into the mountain. Such a stunning sight! I don’t know if every Kurdish family is similar to the one that adopted me during my stay in Iranian Kurdistan, but if you manage to experience a fraction of the kindness and sweetness I lived, you’re in for a treat. I have never felt so welcomed (and that’s a lot to say because I have been feeling more than welcome everywhere in Iran). I was one more member of the family from the get-go. I suddenly was a daughter and a sister in a country that’s not my own, and a piece of my heart will forever stay with them.

Pir Shalyar, a wedding in heaven

The story of the legendary Zoroastrian priest named Pir Shaliar goes back to hundreds of years ago. The deaf and mute daughter of the Iranian king ‘Shah Bahar Khatoun’ was brought to the Pir Shaliar to be cured. Miraculously, she got her health back and married the Pir Shaliar. The local population believe that their wedding took place in Hawraman Takht village. People of Hawraman still credit him with the miracles and blessings he represents. 

Nowruz, the feast of victory against oppression

🎵 Newruz ,hasan zirak

You’re listening to the melody of newruz by Hasan Zirak, the unrepeatable genius that Kurdish music would be incomplete without his masterworks, Hasan Zirak is an Iranian Kurdish songwriter and singer. He was an illiterate musician with a brilliant skill of composing, wording and singing simultaneously.

Persian New Year or Nowruz is something beyond a feast or celebration for the Kurdish people. All Kurdish habitats in the region endear it as a must practice maintaining the mythical roots and original Kurdish culture.  On the eve of Nowruz, in southern and eastern Kurdistan, bonfires are lit. These fires symbolize the passing of the dark season, overcoming the oppression and celebrating the victory on the arrival of spring.

🎵 Firishteh, Qadir Dilan

Firishteh by the Kurdish musician, Qadir Dilan.

Hawraman, a World Heritage Site upon the wild mountains

🎵 Khosha Hawraman, Bijan Kamkar, Kamkar Band

In the west of Iran, where the Iranian Kurdistan province welds nature and culture in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, there exists a heaven built skywards. A village named Hawraman or Uraman Takht with the houses built one on top of another on the upwards slopes. The architecture of the houses is an example of harmony with the surrounding environment. This beautiful and historic village is located among oak and walnut forests and has a unique cultural landscape that made it one of Iran’s World Heritage sites on the UNESCO list.

You listened to an article from tasteiran website about Hawraman, the Iranian World Heritage site upon the wild mountains on a music by Bijan Kamkar, then a modern kurdish song by Yadollah Shakeri.

🎵 Yadollah Shakeri ?

Kurdish Dance, the melody of myths

🎵 Ay larzaneh, Ahmad Jafari

Hand in hand in a circle with the rhythmic music, it seems that the whole universe is dancing cheerfully with them. This dance is a part of their long history. Kurds express their feelings through Halparke dancing. No one is at the centre, each member is equally important in this elegant show. In Halparke men and women should be nimble and free like the wind in the handkerchief.

You’re hearing ay larzaneh by Ahmad Jafari.

Iranian Kurdistan in old travellouges

🎵 Tar Persian lute and tanbur playing of Keyhan Kalhor and Aliakbar Moradi

Now you will hear a short part from the old travelogue of Kurdistan by Isabella Bird Bishop in 1890 that Matin reads, on the background, Tar playing by Kayhan Kalhor and Tanbur playing by Aliakbar Moradi.

Isabella Bird Bishop describes the difficulties she had to endure while crossing the Zagros Mountains In her travel book, Journeys in Persia and Kurdistan. In spite of all these troubles, she, like many other travellers, could not ignore the extreme beauty of the Iranian landscape, “that uplifted, silent world of snow and mountains, on whose skirts for some miles grew small apple and pear trees, oak, ash, and hawthorn, each twig a coral spray”.

Five miles over the snowy billows of the Mahidasht plain, a long ascent, on which the strong north wind was scarcely bearable, a succession of steep and tiresome ridges, many “difficulties” in passing caravans, and then a gradual descent down a long wide valley, opened upon the high plateau, on which Kermanshah, one of the most important cities in Persia, is situated.

Trees, bare and gaunt, chiefly poplars, rising out of unsullied snow, for two hours before we reached it, denoted the whereabouts of the city, which after many disappointments bursts upon one suddenly.

 The view from the hill above the town was the most glorious snow view I have ever seen. All around, rolled to a great height, smooth as the icing of a cake, hills, billowy like the swell of the Pacific after a storm—an ocean of snow; below them a plateau equally unsullied, on the east side of which rises the magnificently precipitous Besitun range, sublime in its wintry grandeur, while on the distant side of the plateau pink peaks raised by an atmospheric illusion to a colossal height hovered above the snow blink, and walled in the picture. Snow was in the air, snow clouds were darkening over the Besitun range; except for those pink peaks, there were no atmospheric effects; the white was very pallid, and the grey was very black; no illusions were possible, the aspect was grim, desolate, and ominous, and even before we reached the foot of the descent the huge peaks and rock masses of Besitun were blotted out by swirls of snow.

Kermanshah, approached from the south-west, added no elements of picturesqueness to the effect. A ruinous wall much too large for the shrunken city it encloses, parts of it lying in the moat, some ruinous loop-holed towers, lines of small domes denoting bazars below, a few good-looking houses rising above the insignificant mass, gardens, orchards, vineyards, and poplars stretching up the southerly hollow behind, and gardens, now under frozen water, to the north, made up a not very interesting contrast with the magnificence of nature.

Next Deltangi, by Hani Mojtahedi, a Kurdish singer from Sanandaj, Iran.

🎵 Deltangi, Hani Mojtahedi

A modern poem from Kurdish poet Savareh Ilkhanizadeh on the music by Naser Razazi named Shar meaning the city. And then, the translation of the poem by Saeed Salimi Babamiri.

🎵 Shar, Naser Razazi

My heart’s full of pain sweetie! 

So I like to leave your city, 

I would like to kill the pain of waiting for you, 

By a cup of spring water that in the village can come true. 

My soul is tired of city pollutions, 

Of dirty days that makes me ill, 

Of night fevers that come to kill. 

So I do like to leave city! 

To leave the lights that damage the sight of eyes, 

And go to my village where moonlight in my feelings flies, 

And the lovely sun in my dreams happens to rise. 

How on earth can I stay in city… 

When I heartily hate city’s cruelty?! 

I like to leave, I do believe, 

Yes, sweetie! That’s your city. 

🎵 lay layeh, Novak band

You’re listening to a song that is a Kurdish lullaby composed by Mamusta Qani sang by Mina Edris, next the main version of this masterpiece from maestro Mazhar Khaleqi on a melody by Hasan Yusuf Zamani , and Good bye.

🎵 lay lay ne mami xianam, Mazhar Khaleqi

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