Kurds have had a rich oral literature throughout history. Even though
written literature has developed to a small degree for several reasons, classical
Kurdish oral literature is acknowledged to have a significant position in Kurdish
culture. The continuous existence of this culture until today is founded on a strong
dengbêj tradition coming from the depth of history. In Kurdish, the word ‘dengbêj’
means telling by voice. ‘Deng’ means voice, and ‘Bêj’ means tell or convey. Dengbêj
is the one who gives life and breath to voice.
Dengbêjs, who traveled around the area that we live in, closely observed and
analyzed Kurdish people’s way of living, and passed these experiences down orally.
Stories told are entirely about life. Any subject that comes to mind takes part in the
songs (strans) of dengbêjs. They tell the beauty of nature, happy and sad memories of
people and their secret loves, fights, betrayals, and braveries to the audience by their
voice. These narratives combine singing and verbal techniques.
Dengbêjs are not only limited to singing in their storytelling activity but they make use
of verbal expression during the song. Dengbêjs utilize melisma technique to deepen
the expression in singing. Melisma is the state of singing more than one note for a
syllable of a word. Melisma usage in storytelling provides dengbêjs with opportunity
to display their range of voice, thereby increasing the story’s effect on audience.