Musical Performance: "Call to XIZIR" - Kurdish Elewi Music

Sat, February 21, 2009 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

(View all musical performances »)

Co-presented by the Kurdish American Cultural Society

(Note early start time)

Emrah Kanicisak - vocals, cura (short lute)
Ozan Aksoy - vocals, tembur (long-necked lute), three strings (small lute), frame drum
Hevi, dance
Kelly Stuart, filmmaker

$20/$15 students with valid I.D.
(Doors open at 7:30 p.m.)


About the Music and the Tradition:

"O Xizir of the ships and boats, come to our rescue!"

Xizir is a holy person in the Kurdish Elewi (Alevi) belief. He has a white beard and rides a white horse. He is omnipresent, and helps anyone in dangerous situations. Kurdish Elewi pray to him and call on him for help and rescue. Elewi have dedicated a specific day to him in February called "Xizir Day." After fasting for three days, Elewi gather and call on Xizir to be with them at all times. This special celebration includes special foods, the performance of sacred dances, and singing sacred songs.

In tonight's concert, the performers will celebrate the "Call to Xizir" with sacred Elewi dances and music to celebrate this unique tradition. A short film, We Give Ourselves to the Mountain, by Kelly Stuart will precede the performance.

Watch the musicians perform here.

About the Performers:

Emrah Kanisicak is a classically trained musician. Born in a small village near Bingol, Turkey, he grew up in the musical traditions of Anatolia, playing Kurdish, Elewi (Alevi), and Turkish folk music starting at the age of six under the tutelage of his father, and went on to study and perform the repertoire of the classical guitar. A graduate of Dokuz Eylül University’s Department of Music, he has composed music for many plays in Turkey and continues to do so for theaters in New York City alongside his solo performances. He has performed with the Cercis Trio at the Makor Center in New York City, as well as CUNY and Alwan for the Arts. Other performances in New York City include INTAR; Newroz Concerts at Theatre Row; "Ottoman Poetry" produced by Story Nights at Columbia University; and MAHMUD AND YEZIDA at The Producers Club (composer and performer). Mr. Kanisicak has performed at the American Kurdish Association's Newroz celebration in New Jersey, and at the Boston Armenian Cultural Center. Kanisicak performed music for the film, DAVID AND LAYLA.

The roots of Ozan Aksoy's dedication to music lies in his early childhood when his father began teaching him the art of baglama or Kurdish tembur, (long-necked lute), an instrument of special symbolic importance for the Kurdish Elewi minority in Turkey. He was born in 1976 and developed an interest in the multi-ethnic musical traditions of Turkey from the beginning of his music career, and became a member of the band Kardes Türküler (Ballads of Fraternity) from 1995 to 2003 as an arranger, composer and performer. Aksoy has recorded five albums and given concerts all around Europe and Turkey with the Kardes Turkuler, performing the local music of Anatolia, the Balkans and Caucasus. Besides performing in venues like Miller Theater, Makor, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Cornell University with two musical groups he founded, Nour and the Ozan Aksoy Trio, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Ethnomusicology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York as a Chancellor's Fellow and currently teaching world music and music of the Middle East at the Hunter College.

Hevi is a folkloric group that aims to preserve and introduce the cultural traditions and customs of the Anatolian culture through its dance and musical performances. Hevi had been established in 2003 and started out as a fledgling folk dance group composed of ten performers from New York City. The Group had been performing throughout the country mainly in New York City, New Jersey, Boston, and Maryland. Anatolia possesses a unique diversity of cultures and the group intends to mirror this diversity of Anatolia through dance and music of the region's cultures.

Kelly Stuart is a playwright and video maker. Her credits include Demonology (with Marisa Tomei) at Playwrights Horizons, and Mayhem, (with Megan Mullally) which has been performed in such distant regions as New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Translylvania. Her play, Shadow Language, which deals with the Kurdish issue in Turkey, was produced at Theatre 503 London last year. She teaches playwriting at Columbia University. Her videos can be seen at:, and

Last updated: 2009-02-11 16:03:15

Emrah Kanisicak and Ozan Aksoy
Emrah Kanisicak and Ozan Aksoy

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