​​​​​​​Mohamed Shekho.. icon who carried  tragedy in songs

On the impact of the pain experienced in the prisons and the hell of displacement in his homeland Kurdistan, Mohammed Shekho, who sang the details of his society, and his love for the homeland and freedom, became an icon of the Kurdish art 31 years after his departure in 1948, in the village of Khajuki, southwest of Qamishlo.

The Kurdish artist and author Mohammed Sheikho was raised in a family of 14 (father, mother, six sons and six daughters), the eldest son, who fell in love with his student, Nasrin Hussein Malik, and sang her the famous song "Nisrîn", and then married her and had four children (Falak, Ibrahim, Brosk, Bekas).

He studied elementary school in his hometown of Khajuki village, a preparatory town in Qamishlo. His sister Amasha Shekho says that " Mohamed Sheikho won a golden feather (pen) after doing well at the school ." Although he was diligent in his studies, he did not complete it as a result of his association and love for his musical instrument "Al-Bazq" and not the poor physical situation of the family, according to his friend Saad Farso. In 1965, Mohammed Shekho developed a disease in his eyes, causing a lack of vision, and was therefore relieved of compulsory service by the Syrian regime at the time.

Mohammed Shekho,  singer of the pain, tragedy and suffering of the nation; known as the artist of the poor and love, the singer of Kurdistan and the servant of the Kurdish people. He highlighted through his songs the persecution of the Kurdish people in the four parts of Kurdistan by the ruling sultans.

His sister Amasha Shekho, now 70, who lives in the village of Tanorya near The city of Qamshlo, said Mohamed Shekho began his artistic career as a young man, adding: "He was coming with oil and wood and strings from the horses hairs to make Al Biziq and its strings to play it."

Mohammed Shekho spent his life among the hills traveling, travelling, displaced and fleeing the security pursuit. He went to the Lebanese capital Beirut in 1970, where he stayed for about 4 years and performed many concerts and musical evenings, during which he met a number of famous Arab artists, including Fayrouz and Wadih Al-Safi and Samira Tawfiq.

 During his years in Lebanon, Mohammed Shekho visited Iraq twice, recording some of his songs in the Kurdish department of Radio Baghdad, introducing Kurdish artists there, such as Tahsin Taha, Mohammad Aref Jaziri and Issa Barwari on his second visit in 1973 with Mullah Mustafa Barzani.

In 1974, he returned to Syria and recorded his first album in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and because of the content of his national songs he was prosecuted by the Baathist Syrian regime.

The Kurdish artist, Saad Farso, who was influenced by the artist Mohamed Shekho more than 51 years ago, now works in his place Dylan Musical Instruments, located on the main street in the western district of Qamishlo, which he opened 24 years ago, says: "At a time when artists were few in times of difficulties, especially after the 1970s "No Kurd dared to say a kurdish word, the artist Mohammed Shekho was being pursued by the Syrian regime as a result of his songs. He did not submit to anyone but wanted to be the voice of his community."

As a result of the Syrian regime's pursuit of him, Mohammed Shekho was forced to go to Bashur Kurdistan in 1974 and joined the Peshmerga , which was waging a revolt against the Iraqi regime.

After the failure of the Barzani revolution in Iraq led by Mullah Mustafa Barzani as a result of the Algiers Agreement between Iraq and Iran on March 6, 1975, and the Iranian side stopped supporting Barzani, Mohammad Shekho landed displaced in the other intermittent part of his homeland Kurdistan in Rojhalt (eastern Kurdistan) and visited Mahabad recorded his second album, one of his most important works (Ey Felek).

Because of the content of his political and nationalist songs, the Iranian authorities demanded that Mohammad Sheikho cease singing, and he was exiled to a Kurdish city near the Caspian Sea on the border of Azerbaijan, learning Persian there.

 In this village, Muhammad Shekho taught Arabic in a secondary school, where he was fallen in love with his student Nasrin Hussein Malik, daughter of a Leader of the Republic of Mahabad, and married her.

The artist Saad Farso pointed out that Mohammad Shekho could not sing in Iran either, as a result of the repression of him by the Iranian authorities, and added: "Mohammad Shekho sent a number of cassette tapes, including the song "xem u xeyale te ez revndim", which caused a stir among the people of the city of Qamishlo, because some said that the Iranian authorities has his  hands or fingers cut off, but they could not find out what happened to him."

The songs of the Kurdish nationalist Muhammad Shekho were the cause of the burden of arrest, torture and exile by the Baathist regime that always followed him, moving the Kurdish melody from darkness to light, and from the folkloric angle to wider artistic horizons, and developed through his creations a musical school, and formed a musical painting Kurdish mosaics in Syria.

Saad Farso pointed out that the late Mohammed Sheikho had a role with other Kurdish artists in the development of Kurdish art and its genres such as Araban, Ajm, Nahund, Western genres of the Kurdish character and rhythm that gave a spirit to the Kurdish tone, and said: "He was not just an artist but a symbol drawing the suffering of the people.

 After suffering bitterly in Iran and being accused of communism following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Mohammed Shekho was referred to the Revolutionary Guard courts but later acquitted, during which time he was pardoned by the Syrian authorities, and returned in 1983 to the city of Qamishlo with his family. Although the Syrian regime has exempted Mohammed Sheikho, but he remained wanted by its various security services, and in this context his sister Amasha says that she helped him hide in her house in the village of Tamwaya for a whole year, adding: "One day a patrol of the political security of the Syrian regime raided the house, the artist hastened "Mohamed Shekho reaches the roof of the house and hides, so that no one will see him."

   Amasha explained that Mohammed Shekho was arrested many times by the Syrian regime, and says: "Once in the prison of Al-Hasakah city, where he was tortured for 15 days, they asked him to leave singing and art under the influence of torture, but he had resolved and said: I will not leave her no matter what they do."

 Amasha stated that he had been arrested again in Derek and threatened to cut off his tongue and fingers, and told them that if you cut them, I would play with my toes.

His songs were characterized by a purely nationalist and revolutionary nature, as he was conveying to the listener the story of the Kurdish people and their suffering, and reinterpreting them in the form of a song.

"Mohamed Shekho called for freedom through his songs, sang "azade şêrîn" and sang "ay lê gul"." He pointed to the song "bexçê gula" and said that he lists the difficulty of the road and how to overcome it, and added " in his songs a huge amount of pain and tragedy, when you hear his songs feel a kind of sadness and pain; and the tragedies of the Kurds."

After returning to Syria, In 1987, Mohammed Shekho opened a studio called "Astronomy Recordings" on Amuda Road, and it was not until several months later that it was closed with red wax, and then he and his brother Bahaa was arrested by state security services. The studio remains closed and all cassette tapes are inside.

On March 6, 1989, Mohammed Shekho suffered a heart attack after being released from Baathist prisons, and was treated at the National Hospital , after which he died on the morning of March 9, leaving behind an artistic legacy in 120 songs.

"The Syrian regime used systematic violence against him, used electricity to torture him, inserted needles into his fingers, tortured him in various forms, and at the time of his death his feet were blue as a result of severe torture," she said.

The body of Mohammed Shekho was laid to rest by tens of thousands in the city of Qamishlo, in  Al-Hilaliya shrine. Every year the city's residents and artists, Mohammed Sheikho, remember on March 9th to visit his mausoleum, in response to what he said in one of his songs. The song says "gava ez mirim gelî zindiya, min ne veşêrin wekî hemîya. "If I die one day, don't bury me like your dead, every time March comes, wake me up to give you the pain with my voice."

Saad Farso confirmed that Mohamed Shekho, who was calling for unity in his songs, if he was present today would have rejected this situation that the Kurdish people are going through, and said: "The Kurdish song today is sophisticated, but its content does not follow the lines of the stage, the stage is fraternal and art must play the rhythm of the kurdish."

 In 2011, following Rojava revolution, and in memory of Mohamed Shekho, the city's residents opened a cultural center after his name, organizing 6 musical and singing groups.

Today, 31 years after the departure of artist Mohamed Shekho, his voice is still heard all over the place, as if he were alive, and his songs are being heard more than ever before.



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