Globalization has undeniably brought considerable benefits to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including economic progress, job opportunities, and cultural diversity. However, it has also ushered in the dominance of Western popular culture and media within the Kurdish community, resulting in a growing divide between the younger generation and their Kurdish heritage. This is particularly true of music, where globalization has homogenized music styles and tastes, endangering the preservation of our rich musical heritage.
Yet what Generation Z perceives as “uncool” today could well become the new “cool,” if we give our traditions another chance. With the aim of revitalizing cultural values and traditional melodies, Kurdish musician Sivan Payadar has devised a unique fusion of Kurdish music and funk, which he aptly named “Funkawari.” This name derives from the combination of “funk” and “awari,” a term rooted in the distinctive Kurdish word “Kurdawari,” encompassing all aspects of Kurdish culture and tradition. Funkawari lives up to its name by offering a fresh and captivating musical experience.
Born on June 13, 1990, in Erbil, the capital of the KRI, Sivan Payadar is a Kurdish saxophonist, music producer, and television host. His musical journey when he picked up the flute, supported by his father, the former flutist Payadar Barznji. Eventually, Sivan delved deeper into the world of jazz music, becoming a skilled saxophonist. At the age of six, he hosted a television program on the Gullan TV channel from 1996 to 2001, and later, another children's television program on Kurdistan TV from 2001 to 2003. He went on to establish a musical ensemble, known as Bshadow, a group of talented Kurdish musicians, including saxophonists, pianists, guitarists, drummers, vocalists, and bass guitarists, who perform live across Kurdistan.
Under Sivan's leadership, Bshadow debuted the genre of Funkawari at Siduri Pub in Erbil, a renowned establishment in Ankawa. The band’s first event achieved resounding success, drawing music enthusiasts, diplomats, and prominent figures in Erbil. At the show, Bshadow introduced a unique twist to Kurdish classics, such as Ibrahim Qadri's “Darzhe,” Aynadin's “Narma Narma,” and Tahsin Taha's “Min tu Navi,” infusing them with a funk style. Notably, they presented a funk version of Omar Suleyman's iconic track “Warni Warni,” possibly for the first time.
Perhaps the genre of Funkawari can inspire a new generation of musicians and music lovers to rekindle the flame of Kurdish music. At its heart, the genre certainly recognizes that history serves as a foundation for understanding our identity, fostering meaningful connections with our heritage, and nurturing a prosperous society.
Ayar Rasool is an acclaimed producer of short films and documentaries, who has been in collaboration with media agencies such as AppleTV, Netflix, and HBO. His projects have garnered critical acclaim, marked by numerous Emmy and BAFTA nominations, as well as a local distinctions.