The Kurdish Globe
By Sama Dizayee
She began performing at the age of sixteen, released her first album at the age of nineteen, and since her first album, has become the standalone female Kurdish artist. Chopy Fatah, born in 1983 in the city of Kirkuk, immigrated with her family to Holland for political reasons at the age of five. Chopy is now one of Kurdistan's most riveting and talked about artists as she continues her success in the Kurdish music industry and enters the Western music market. As her career evolves, she continually demonstrates success in her field of work as a Kurdish woman.
Globe: Can you tell the Kurdish Globe readers how Chopy Fatah begun her musical career? Since you started singing at a very young age, were you personally motivated to do so? Was there someone who pushed you?
Chopy Fatah: It's on my website, no, I'm kidding [she laughs]. I started singing as a solo artist in a choir at the age of sixteen at the Kurdish Music Academy in Germany. The Kurdish Music Academy consisted of a group of mostly Kirmanj Kurds [from North of Kurdistan], and they received invitation from organizations to perform big concerts and festivals in Koln, Germany, with Kurdish crowds of more than 100,000 people attending every year. Jawad Mirwani, who was also a member and a singer, appreciated my vocals and my performance and introduced me to Medya TV in Belgium (Sterk TV now) where he also asked me to appear on TV programs. I started singing on a program called "Shana-sheen" at Medya TV with Barzan Shaswar and since then I was asked for more TV shows, this also led me to my first concert in The Hague, Netherlands, with the crowd of more than 3000 in the year 2000.
When I came to Holland, I started listening to English music a lot. Growing up to the music of Madonna, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston; along the road I also started listening to Mariah Carey. I have to say that until now Whitney Houston and Mariah Carrey are my role models and I look up to them as artists. And I come from a family with a musical background, for instance my mother's uncle, the late Mohammed Tawfiq Shilek was known for "Maqamati Safar" which is a genre of Kurdish music. Also my Father had a big library of musical cassettes that he guarded with his life and brought it with him to Holland.
Every day when I was kid I used to listen to them and now I look back and think to myself how beautiful it was that we were able to bring a little bit of Kurdistan, the cassettes, with us to Holland, and that's when I fell in love with our rich Kurdish music. But I have to be honest and admit the bigger reason for me to fall in love with Kurdish music was my mother, I grew up with her "laya laya" songs, the sleeping songs, where it's my bedtime and I stare at my mother's eyes while she's singing until I fall asleep.
The people who supported me and gave me the power to be behind the microphone and sing were my parents, my dear husband, and the people who loved me such as my two brothers, my cousins, and my friends who live in Holland.
Globe: Tell me about your first concert in Kurdistan and how was the reaction of the audience? What did you feel performing for the first time as an artist in Kurdistan?
Chopy: I was eighteen and I was invited by the Ministry of Culture to perform for the first time in Hawler at Media Hall and as many people as they were inside, there were twice as many outside and when I saw that I gasped for a second and then automatically I started crying. It was one of my happiest moments of my life that I will never forget. It was definitely a dream come true, we ran away to Holland because of the horror of Saddam's regime and now I'm being able to return to Kurdistan and perform to my Kurdish audience in the city of Hawler, that itself will always be memory I can never forgot.
Globe: How many albums have you released so far? What do you think of Kurdish artists who start off their career in Kurdish music and then move onto singing in English? Don't you think at some point it will attract the artist to be more into the English music industry and abandon their Kurdish work?
Chopy: So far I have released four Kurdish solo CDs and my fifth album is on the way, scheduled to be released in June 2012 under the title "Baran". I have also released three English songs and music videos "Draw the Line", "My Homeland", and "Think of Me". Goran Kay is the composer of these songs and we actually managed to record a whole English album together that is scheduled for release in 2013 inshallah.
Personally, I like to sing in both languages, Kurdish and English. I follow both at the same time and give both the same quality of work with no differentiation. I started singing Kurdish professionally first then followed by English but we can't hide the fact that growing up in Holland has exposed me to English music on daily basis. I think we can't live without music and if we, as Kurdish artists, can reach out for more than the Kurdish audience, it will certainly be a huge success, not only for ourselves but for Kurdistan as well because we will be presenting the talent of our country at the end of the day. So no matter what we do, and in what language we sing we can never forget that we are Kurdish artists and performing for the Kurdish audience first then to the rest of the world.
Globe: What message are you trying to send to the rest of the world besides the Kurds by singing in English? Do you think you are taking advantage of being a famous Kurdish singer in marketing your English works?
Chopy: I want to show through my music that a person from Kurdistan, raised in Holland can bring those two cultures together in music and show their talent and what they have learned from both cultures. Two, I'm also sending the message of love through my music, that's coming out not only from Kurdistan but from the Middle East and trying to show the real image of peace and that it's not always about war and conflict.
Answering your second question, I wouldn't say I am taking advantage of my fame as a Kurdish artist, but I would say that it is definitely marketing for me in other good opportunities. and it is certainly shortening a lot of long way paths for me to reach out for the Western music industry and have them exposed to Kurdish music industry and what our genres can offer. In the end this creates a beautiful collaboration in introducing music and always being proud of what we do.
Globe: You mentioned that your next album will be under the name "Baran(rain)", where did the inspiration of that album and the song itself came from? Were there any foreign collaborations on the "Baran" album or the English album?
Chopy: The idea behind the "Baran" was Kia Shadman from "Roj Halat" [East of Kurdistan] where rock music is one of their leading genres, and I've always been interested in rock music. I never thought that I could combine rock music with Kurdish music and for so many years I've showcased my music and Kurdish folk music. This was definitely an interesting idea that grabbed my attention and it was about time to try out something new as a gift from me to the youth of Kurdistan. And I'm happy that the music video "Baran" will be out on June 10th, which is also my birthday. I can consider it not only a gift to the Kurdish audience but also a birthday gift for me! Regarding foreign collaborations, yes I have worked with people in the West on my English album. The instrumentals were recorded in London, vocals in Holland and there are a number of people who worked on it with me. The only two Kurds who worked on my English album are my composer Goran Kay and I.
Globe: What do you think about the Kurdish identity abroad? What do you think about the role of Kurdish women in society and their contribution in nationalism?
Chopy: Kurdish women are strong, they have been through a lot; the war, losing their husbands, raising a family and the like. They've also experienced discrimination and not able to penetrate the male workforce. I feel really hurt when I see that. But also we need to stand up for ourselves and rights as Kurdish women and take part in them, not only by words but by action in contributing to our society and have the strength and power to express our ideas and thoughts.
I am more than happy to see now that women are actually contributing and participating twice as much as before in Kurdistan and outside of Kurdistan. Now I can see female police officers in the streets of Kurdistan, I see successful women as members of parliament, and business women that are also trying to reach for international business. So now we do see more contribution of women in our society and I think it will grow larger day by day.
Globe: What message does Chopy Fatah have for the young aspiring artists and for those who look up to you? What are your messages for Kurdistan itself?
Chopy: My message is love yourself, love each other, always be proud of what you reach, stand still sometimes and take a deep breath, look at what you have accomplished, and then move on to the next level of your project.
Please get educated because education is the gem of success, and mostly believe in yourself because we all as human beings tend to feel down if someone tries to bring us down or even if we fail -we learn from our failures because they are lessons. Follow your dream and never forget to believe in yourselves.
As for my message to Kurdistan, on a smaller scale, I really hope from the bottom of my heart that the people in Kurdistan drive safely because every time I am in there, I see a lot of accidents happening and I just wish that people would be careful and take care of themselves especially when they drive. On a larger scale, I want to say that I am so happy and delighted of what levels Kurds have reached, all the development, the nationalities, and the international business we see in Kurdistan just shows how far we have gone, from war and pain to development and education. With determination and success we can always reach beyond the levels we expect, so let's not stop moving forward, working together, and building the bright future of our beautiful Kurdistan for us and for the next generation.