Sohrab Pournazeri

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Nishtiman means 'fatherland' in the Kurdish language. Nishtiman is also the name of a group of musicians who are performing at the Bimhuis this year at the Holland Festival. The ensemble is made up of seven members: Hussein Hajar Zahawy (daf, percussion), Sorhab Pournazeri (tambur, kamancheh, vocals), Goran Kamil (oud), Ertan Tekin (zorna), Myriam Ebrahimpour (vocals), Robin Vassy (African percussion) and Leila Renault (double bass). The Nishtiman ensemble aims to put Kurdish music on the world map. Sorhab Pournazeri, musician and composer explains: 'We purposefully blended styles, with the intention of giving foreign audiences a nice, broad, general overview of what Kurdish music is.' The musicians mix Kurdish and African percussion; they draw extensively from the mystic Sufi tradition, but also include popular melodies and love songs on their repertoire. According to artistic leader Hussein Hajar Zahawy, one of the reasons for the broad scope Nishtiman adopts is that Kurdistan is part of a much larger area with a common musical language, stretching from southern Spain to India, via Northern Africa, the Balkans, Greece, Anatolia, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Iran. Zahawy was born in Khanaqin in 1980 to a politically active family. In order to escape ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the Zahawy family fled to Iran and then moved to London. Learning to play music by himself, Zahawy started to look for the music from his fatherland. In order to promote diversity and to transcend geographical borders he and Pournazeri surrounded themselves with musicians from various parts of Kurdistan. However, their options were limited; for instance, war made it impossible for musicians from Syrian Kurdistan to join the group. Five of the seven band members are from Kurdistan, the other two are from France. Zahawy: 'Our aim is to build awareness about Kurdish musical tradition among the foreign public.' Kurdish music has always struggled to obtain a status of its own, as it was generally regarded as an expression of Persian, Arabic or Turkish music. It was only valued by a limited circle of connoisseurs within the Kurdish community. Zahawy: 'Nishtiman strives for the recognition of Kurdish musical traditions as one independent national heritage.' According to him, Kurdish music is based on the people, not on nationality, religion or history. It's music about our daily lives, music from before nationalism. Zahawy: 'The time has come to promote Kurdish national music as a movement in its own right and Nishtiman is a first step in this direction.'