‘Master of Kurdish music’ Egide Cimo dies at 87

"Kurdish artist Egide Cimo played a huge role in the preservation of Kurdish culture in exile."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish artist Egide Cimo died in a hospital in the city of Yerevan in Armenia at the age of 87 last week. Cimo played a huge role in the preservation of Kurdish culture in exile through Radio Yerevan and his music.

Cimo, a Yezidi (Ezidi) Kurd, was born in the Erdeser village in Armenia. He was a well-known composer at Radio Yerevan for 35 years.

His family is originally from Van, a town in southeastern Turkey, known as northern Kurdistan among Kurds. His family migrated to Armenia in 1918.

From early on, he learned to play the traditional flutes such as Bilur, Zurna, and Duduk (which is also known as mey in Kurmanci, and balaban in Sorani). He started to work for Radio Yerevan in 1995, which became a home for Kurdish musicians in exile.

According to Dr. Nahro Zagros, Vice President of Soran University, the Ezidi Kurds in Armenia established broadcasting in Kurdish in the diaspora in the 1950s, as well as the first Kurdish cinema film in 1972. This was at a time when Kurdish culture and language was banned in Turkey.

“There are a number of reasons that Kurds all over Kurdistan owe to the Yezidi community in Armenia and how they protected, preserved and revived Kurdish culture altogether,” Zagros said.

“One of the main actors in terms of music was Egide Cimo because he was a catalyst person to bring in so many talented singers and also discovering talented singers to come and sing in radio broadcasting on Radio Yerevan.”

He played a role in the music of Kurdish singers such as Xerabete Xaco, Efroye Esed, Eslika Qadir, Suska Simo, and Xana Zaze. But he also inspired new singers such as Aynur Dogan, Delil Delinar, and others.

“Egîdê Cimo, the master and bearer of the Kurdish music has quietly left us. May his memory live on,” Aynur Dogan tweeted on Friday.

Zagros, who completed his doctorate in Anthropology and Ethnomusicology at York University (United Kingdom), was Cimo’s student when he visited him in 2005 to learn the Duduk. “I wanted to meet him and learn from him.”

“The main person for anyone who talks about Yezidi and Kurdish music in Armenia was the plaintive sound of the Duduk, performed by Egide Cimo.”

Many Kurdish artists today try to imitate the Duduk that Cimo played.

Although Cimo’s nickname was “king of the Bilur,” he was more famous for playing the Duduk flute, Zagros stated.

“Egîdê Cimo is one of the great musicians and Kaval [Bilur] players of Kurdish Music. So, he was nominated Mîr of the Kaval,” Kurdish opera artist Pervin Chakar told Kurdistan 24.

“He played many wind instruments among others like the Duduk, Mey, and Balaban,” she added. “He recorded many Kurdish songs with other Armenian and Kurdish singers.”

Moreover, he played music in popular films such as “the well-known song Lawike Metînî in the Film of Hiner Saalem’s Vodka Lemon [2003], and a documentary about him by Salîh Kevirbirî,” Chakar said.

“He was important because he was unique! Nobody can play the Kaval like him. The famous Armenian Duduk player Djivan Gasparyan was amazed [by] him too.”

Although Cimo passed away, Zagros said, his “legacy, legend, and contributions to Kurdish music will live on.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany