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Rocker discovers his origins

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 10/20/2011 12:00:00 AM | Vercihan Ziflioğlu

Turkish Rock and alternative musician Yaşar Kurt is a highly symbolic figure for conscientious objectors; his dissident song, ‘Korku’ (Fear), which was released in the late 1990s, virtually amounted to a political march and resulted in his trial for ‘treason.’ Kurt recently spoke to the Daily News about the release of his latest album, ‘Güneş Kokusu’ (Smell of the Sun), as well as his Armenian origins. ‘I am trying to discover myself. Every individual ought to be free in this decision,’ he says

Prominent Turkish rock and alternative musician, Yaşar Kurt, has embraced his spiritual identity, faced trial forhis music’s content and seeks to honor his hero on stage. Now, after eight years, he has also released a new album, “Güneş Kokusu” (Smell of the Sun).

“Despite everything, my fans have continued to embrace me. This goes to show that I have addressed a righteous and solid following,” he said.

Kurt became baptized at the age of 40 after learning that he was actually of Armenian origin. “I am trying to discover myself. Every individual ought to be free in this decision and live the way they feel. One ought not to carry their identity around as if it were his or her fate. I am a proselyte for both sides, neither side accepts me. The sense of not belonging sticks to you like your destiny. Is being human not the most important thing?” Kurt told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.

He had been asking his family about his identity since the age of 13 but never received a reply, Kurt said, adding that he felt extremely angry when he learned the truth after 40 years. “Still, I want to hear the language of peace.” he added.

[HH]Artist wants to honor his hero

“I lived unaware of my true identity in this land, which was visited by indescribable pain, but I want peace and dialogue. The peace that I am describing is a peace where one does not prevail over the other,” he said, adding that his relatives were unnerved and reacted negatively when he revealed his true identity.

Kurt’s greatest wish is to stage a screen play about the life of Gomidas Vartabed, who represents a milestone in the development of Armenian music.

“Besides our physical resemblance, Gomidas is also a significant figure for humanity, and for Turkish-Armenian relations,” Kurt said, adding that everyone who saw him was struck by their likeness.

Gomidas, an ethno-musicologist whose real name was Soğomon Soğomonyan, is known for his extensive research, studies and compilations of Turkish, Azeri, Kurdish and Iranian music in addition to his crucial contributions to Armenian music.

Gomidas was arrested alongside with 250 other Armenian intellectuals on the evening of April 24, 1915, the date which is commemorated as the beginning of the events of 1915, just as he was on the brink of deciphering the coded notes of Baba Hamparzsum, a prominent figure in Turkish Classical Music. Having personally witnessed the deaths of many of his friends, Gomidas lost his mental balance and spent the rest of his life in a Paris mental asylum.

[HH]A symbol of conscientious objection

Kurt also stands as a highly symbolic figure for conscientious objectors; his dissident song “Korku” (“Fear”), which was released in the late 1990s on the album “Göndermeler” (Allusions), amounts to a political march against military service. Kurt was sued and tried for treason because of the album.

“I was going to be sentenced to 12 years in prison, had I not been acquitted,” he said, adding that the ban on the album was still in effect.

“My album is banned. I cannot re-introduce it to the market, but I can add the songs to my new albums one by one and sing them in my concerts – it’s truly a contradiction. Because the album was banned by the Culture Ministry I must file a lawsuit against the state to lift the ban [and] I was tried at a military court,” Kurt said.

He lived as a fugitive for years to avoid military service, Kurt said, adding that he finally served 28 days in the military in the early 2000s through draft regulations that allowed him to conduct partially exempted and paid service.

“Militarism is the fundamental cause behind all the world’s problems. I cannot lay my hands on a weapon. Bearing arms is not the only way to serve the country. I can look after the elderly in a nursing home, or do cleaning work, but I did not want my hands to touch a weapon, and I still do not want to do so,” he said.

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