Arsak Yasar (Photo by: Tolga Mercan)

By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN/ISTANBUL – Arsak (Arshak) Yasar Kurt (born August 16, 1968) is a Turkish-Armenian rock musician. He was enrolled at the Faculty of Economics of Eskisehir Osmangazi University but did not graduate.

He founded the alternative musical group Beyaz Yunus (White Dolphin), in 1993, made his first studio recording in Germany and in 1994, released the album “Sokak Sarkıları” (Street Songs) recorded in Cologne, Germany. The album, released on the Ada Müzik label, became very popular in Turkey, and a series of concerts followed throughout Turkey.

He returned in 1996 to Turkey to continue his musical career. His album “Göndermeler” (Referrals) was released in 1997 on Aks Müzik and Bogaziçi Müzik labels. After one- and-a-half years, Yasar Kurt released “Reflex” on Agdas Müzik production, with nine songs stretching in the period 1990-2000 as well as 3 cover versions. In 2003, he released a collection album “Anne” under his own music label. In 2003 he was one of the founders of “Barı arock,” a major rock event in Turkey. In 2004, he wrote the music for ATV television’s popular series “Sevda Tepesi.” In 2011, Kurt released the album “Güne Kokusu” (Smell of Sun) including a hit song called Ver Bana Dü lerimi (Give Me My Dreams).

In 2007, at the age of 40, Yashar Kurt learned from his father that he is not an ethnic Turk, but Armenian, after which he began to learn the Armenian language. In May of the same year, with Arto Tunçboyacıyan, he embarked on a project dedicated to the memory of the famous Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

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Dear Arsak, as a dedicated pacifist and political dissident, how do you react to the current situation in our troublesome region?

The chaos in the region shatters the hope of people who try making peace, and that shows the failure of the things being done by these people without peace. The hatred should be kept far away from the humanity’s ideology. My political position keeps the ways to live together open.

Why are rock musicians are so interested in social issues?

Rock music is a kind of reaction. Rock music has been searching for a new view in the post-war world and it takes its esthetic power from that situation. And I am walking on this path.

I assume you are annoyed about being questioned about your national identity and how upon discovering your Armenian roots. You baptized yourself as an Armenian Apostolic Christian and have adopted a new Armenian name, Arsak. I will not ask about the circumstances, but my question is whether after about 15 years what impact has it had on you as a person and as an artist?

The fact that I have explored my Armenian roots led me to know more about this subject. I have started to learn about Armenian musical influences and I have recognized in this period Gomidas had a musical treasure trove. Certainly that period has changed my view on music and other things in many ways.

Have you discovered the real family name of your ancestors?

My family name in the Black Sea region is Kosenogullari, but before the name Murad was used in Van. But I still could not find it in official documents.

Your colleague and compatriot Arto Tunçboyacıyan is considered a Turkish- Armenian musician. Are you also using this definition?

There is no such definition for me in Turkey. And also other Armenian and Greek artists were not mentioned as such.

Do you continue your concerts with “YashAr,” the band you formed with Arto?

Yes, we do. We recorded two songs in Yerevan in summer 2019. We had a concert in February in Istanbul. Besides, during the past years I have participated in several album anthologies and covered several songs from other artists for these albums. I had many performances around Turkey and Europe, and some of these performances were with Arto Tuncboyaciyan.

I wrote in a musical called “Istiklal” in which I played the main character and played music, with the Gunesh Theater which has been active in Frankfurt for past two years.


Arsak Yasar (Photo by: Tolga Mercan)

As you said once, Gomidas is your Armenian idol, whose music you also perform. What happened to your plan to make a musical film about him?

I have been working on this idea recently, but as a producer it is not easy to find funding for this biographical story. I have also made field research related to Hemshin music. I played myself as Yasar Kurt in a TV series which was shot in Hemshin in 2013-2014 and covered regional songs for this series. These songs were released on an album called “Hemsin Yaylalari, 2015.” In 2014, I was one of the main charac- ters in a biographical documentary called “The Silent Heritage of Turkey,” and I recorded the music for this documentary.

How would you characterize Gomidas’ music?

Actually Gomidas’ music explains his philoso- phy. His philosophy was searching for truth without prejudice. His philosophy has regard for the common benefits of humanity. His phi- losophy is that it takes courage to see all the naked pain. So it is very powerful and fragile.

How would you describe Armenian music?

Dance, sadness, beauty.

What is the common trait for Armenian musicians you have met?

During my first visit I had opportunity to meet such wonderful Armenian musicians, like Vahagn Hayrapetyan, Artiom Manoukyan and Tigran Suchyan. I also met Ara Dinkjian in 2010 in New York. The common points of the Armenian musicians I met were that they were open-minded and paying attention for creativity.

What are your connections with Istanbul Armenians?

Well, sometimes I met people at holy mass ceremony.

You speak the Hemshin dialect. Have you ever studied literary Armenian?

I speak Hemshin dialect very little. There are not so many people who speak that dialect in our region. But I am thinking on to stay in Armenia for a while to learn Armenian, yet I am not sure when will it become.

I remember Arto’s concert in Yerevan in 2008 with your participation. When you were in Armenia last?

In September 2019. I stayed for 3 weeks on Hin Yerevantsi Street. I saw museums, ate deli- cious food and listened to great Armenian music and returned to Turkey happily.

Well, Arsak, you are always welcome home – with concerts or without!

For sure, I will come back soon. Thanks for your kind interest!

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