In the summer of 2014, Nicole Russo and I started planning a show at her gallery, Chapter NY, together. The gallery is a single room. It has a recessed doorway that is also a window, and an air conditioner pierces the glass above the door. The gallery faces south and receives direct sunlight, so the shade in the window is always drawn. A temperamental radiator sits on the floor. Steam from the city’s underground steam… [read more »]
A Serb coined the term “Turbo Folk” in the late ’80s to describe a revved-up folk music via pop and dance engine fuel. And although Turbo Folk is inherently Serbian, I believe the term can be used to describe many a globally updated folk genre. Keeping this in mind, we approach the video for the song “Gal Gal Nazdaran” by Mehdi Alizadeh with a fast and furious zeal.
The song is an example of Kurdish folk music blended lovingly with a local interpretation of techno. Imagine the dreamy betrothal of a rural sheep herder to his cyber-goth, neon-dreadlocked wench. Ah! Such a heavenly match can yield only the most sublimely spliced offspring.
Before we delve into the video: for those who know little of Kurdish culture, contemporary use of the term “Kurdistan” refers to parts of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, and northern Syria inhabited mainly by Kurds. And so, the Kurds are essentially a nationless people living literally on the edge… of four countries.
The intro of the video, especially the first 30-odd seconds, is surreal to the point of hallucinatory. Amidst a somewhat dark, techno-like track and much camera quake FX, we view a row of male dancers in a field, arms linked in a dabke-style line dance, wearing traditional brown jumpsuits. Our singer, Mehdi Alizadeh, suddenly appears, and the song transitions from techno to full-blown turbo folk. And much of the video revolves around the algorithm of capturing the dancers hopping to and fro dizzyingly intercut with our singer’s exceptional eyebrowèd countenance.
The universe of Kurdish line dancing videos is large; this otherworldly genre is just one tiny bubble in it. But as far as I’m concerned, Rural and Rave have never looked better.