The Rising Star of Kurdish Music: Delil Dilanar

Inspired by his ancestors, his uncle and his unwritten history Delil Dilanar began a journey of his musical career at a very young age. While the popular music slowly was taken over the youth and the mainstream, he turned to his roots: the Bards ( Dengbeji)

An interview with the young rising star Delil Dilanar about his musical journey, his work and his future plans.

Dengbeji style is mostly performed by elders and yet you choose for this style of music. What was the main reason for this decision?

It’s true that the youth doesn’t prefer this music style, but it didn’t hold me back to choose this style. This is in which I can identify myself the most with.

Dengbeji style is a very difficult style to perform. This is why it has been performed mostly by experienced ( read elder) man. It requires an experience of a lifetime, because it’s not only music what you are performing. You are a storyteller, musician, historian and a linguist at the same time. This music style has not only a musical value, but also a literary value.

The main reason of my choice was my family actually. My father and uncle are also dengbej and they were the ones who inspired me from the beginning. I can say that they have introduced me to dengbeji.

As you said Dengbeji is a very difficult style in Kurdish music. How was it for you in the beginning? Did you find it difficult to practice?

Yes it was difficult indeed. First of all, you have to have a very good memory. Because, you can’t put all those lyrics on paper and sing from it. It’s just too difficult, because the songs are too long. These songs are also open for interpretation of the performer. You could compare it to opera. You need a very good voice technique too.

So how did you managed to develop your techniques? Did you have any musical education for this?

No, unfortunately not. The difficult part in this was that there wasn’t any opportunity for academic study in this music style. Actually, till resent, there weren’t even any kind of education in Kurdish at all. Everything I’ve learned about this style was through self-education and with the great help of my masters. There are a few books published about Dengbeji and Kurdish music in general. They helped me in a way to develop my knowledge on the history of this style. But I still to try to do more research on this matter and every day I learn more and more. Still I wish that we had more opportunities in the past to learn more about our music, culture and even history in general. I am still in that learning process.

You said that a dengbej is not only a singer, but also a storyteller and a historian. Could you tell more about this?

A dengbeji song tells often a true story. A love tragedy, social matters, historical events and heroic stories about Kurdish struggle throughout the history. We can say that dengbeji has helped to pass on the Kurdish history and culture on generations. It’s the oldest tradition of passing on/ telling a story. And because of the denial of our cultural and historical identity throughout the history, dengbeji has a very big importance in Kurdish reality till today. Not only it helped telling the story of my people, but it also kept our culture alive.

Despite of your young age, you still choose for this music style which was not very popular by the youth. And again because of your youth, you have managed to make it more and more popular by young public. How do you feel about this?

I couldn’t be happier. It gives me a great satisfaction to know that I have reached more people with my music.  I could have chosen for more popular music. The young audience prefers that more, but I remained to be faithful to my roots. I think that I found myself in dengbeji and that’s what I’m trying to sing through my music. It’s basically all about the feelings that you give through. If your audience perceives that, then you can consider yourself as a good performer. The young generation is starting to accept this music more. They notice that dengbeji is not only about very heavy and loaded songs, but it includes also more rhythmical songs and also more joyful songs such as marriage songs.

The world music changes constantly. Mainstream music is more liked. So de authenticity of the folklore changes too unfortunately. How far doe the Kurdish music get influenced by this change?

I must say that our music also get influenced by this change. But it’s not comparable with the rest of the world. Kurdish music has been oppressed for centuries like her people. It has begun to develop herself in the last decade. So the process is going a bit slower. And still we can see some changes in instrumental choices and beats. They are more modern and computerized. I prefer to go live. I think that the originality is essential for the traditional music. Dengbeji remain to stay original, because of the emotional and the historical value that it has for my people. It has a strong connection with the reality of the people. And this you can’t change or destroy.

Again the changes in the music. There is a hype in the music right now. They are turning to the authentic music. Hindi tune in a rap song or a African beat in a hip-hop song. What is the reason for this development?

It’s a search. An endless search for something new. Actually not new, because they are turning to the oldies. I think that it’s because of the dead end in the music. So it turns herself back to her roots. To the origin. That’s why this sudden change. It’s like the music is longing to an old flame in the past. And finally they meet.

You can change a lot with the right technical instruments in the studio. You can even change the voice. But it doesn’t give me the same feeling like the acoustic does.

You’ve just opened a new studio. You’re also producing albums for others. What are your future plans? 

Yes, I just began to work in my new studio. I am busy recording my 4th solo-album. Besides that I’m also working on new albums for other artists such as Nizamettin Aric, Aynur Dogan and Mikail Aslan. All of them very talented and authorities in the Kurdish music. I am also busy with organizing two concerts with Nizamettin Aric. It’s going to be a wonderful collaboration with him. I am a great fan of his work. He is internationally well known by his work and also very respected and gifted composer. My ultimate dream is to make a Europe- tour and bring the Kurdish traditional music to a bigger audience.

Biography of Delil Dilanar:

Delil was born on 3 may 1973 in the Kurdish city Mus. He lived there until 1990. He began his musical journey in 1994 in Istanbul. He joined then a band called Rojhilat. He left the band in 1996 and went to Moscow for concerts. He returned after two years and begun to work on his first album. But unfortunately it didn’t work out for him in Turkey and it was impossible for him to stay there due political reasons. That’s why he left Turkey and moved to Europe in 1999. After his arrival in Germany he continued working on his record and released his first solo – album in 2001.

Two years after he left home his uncle, Dengbej Huseyno, died. He was a well-known singer in Kurdistan. Delil had a special relation with his uncle and was heartbroken by his death. He dedicated his second album as an ode to his late uncle Huseyno. The album included all the famous songs of his uncle. This album made Delil world-famous by his people.

Delil is not only a singer with a powerful voice. He is also a gifted musician, a composer and a producer too. He plays the tambour ( saz), balaban, kaval, erbane and several other percussion.

To purchase the albums by Delil Dilanar go to

Article by Sebelan Kilic