How HellyLuv Risked It All

HellyLuv and her music video ‘Risk it all’ went viral in the Middle East. Ranja Faraj takes a closer look at it and explains what it means to be a female risktaker.

Before I start this article, I would like to address that I am for the happiness and freedom of all. This video I am using is perfect to bring a very interesting discourse forward. I believe music is subjective and I am not criticizing this particular song sonically or attacking the singer, HellyLuv. I am merely using the reaction this video caused as well as what this video represents in terms of the apparent progression of the Kurdish population.

Let’s Start

It is not a huge surprise that this song was musically designed to be commercially successful and contemporary. It does sound nice and it’s current exposure shows that there are likers and dislikers out there. Firstly, I want to magnify the issue of why some like it and some do not.

The Good, The Bad And The Passionate

Those who like the song, support what it represents and see it as a great platform to push Kurdistan forward have genuine reasons, though to what extent? On the other side you have people who dislike the song, see it as regressive for Kurds or even tarnishing and those who see it as a mere copycat of Western culture and the loss of our own. Both are right.

The reason why is because, here, we see a cross section of society, the immigrant in another country. A society living within someone living in a different society. The one who can feel at home in two places but is not perceived to be. The natural instinct would be to bring the two together because that is what one knows, what is embellished in their identity. So when HellyLuv, and many others, use a passion as a platform for their heritage you get a huge array of consequences, both good and bad.

I love culture and it is the differing cultures that makes one appreciate and distinguish one another. So, with the large generation of multi-culture kids, you face a fusion of culture already. Is this progression for society or is the preservation of each culture progression? Do we form a culture together and follow the dominating popular West in order to progress? Does it matter what culture we have as long as we do have culture?

The Wild Wild West

Another perspective is how the elite in South Kurdistan are encouraging foreign investment and with this you get foreign influence evidently and foreign products and demand for foreign goods increase with it and so on. Now, you would expect the younger generation in Kurdistan to desire Western culture when it is their investment which has seen the prosperity rise. So, what is wrong with HellyLuv playing to a strength she has and using it to unify an untapped generation that listen to the music that she makes? The elders in Kurdistan want money and with it came the culture. It seems that their hypocrisy denies their right to complain.

I am trying to figure out whether being three steps behind the West is better or worse. South Kurdistan are outsourcing resources and the West are outsourcing their culture. Who is winning and who is losing?

Are You Ready For This Jelly?

What about the Beyoncé Effect? There has been an increase of using women as empowering figures in the realm of the music industry. Your assumption may be why would that be relevant, let alone detrimental.

Look at it like this, the emphasis on independent women and fierceness and such for women exists and is marketed well and proven commercially successful. Now, when have you heard a song about an independent man who has to sing about issues to empower himself? It is a double standard. The reason why is because it’s marketable and you can create fandom. If a female wants to become successful right now, it has to target a following. So, when a female artist wants to achieve commercial success, they will target areas they can create a strong affinity with: females and issues of equality. It sounds very callous but it has become that and it is being recycled.

HellyLuv of Arabia

“A woman poses with two lions and a tight dress in a music video and suddenly women are equal.” No.

That is not the case and what is unfair to HellyLuv is how much responsibility has been put on her shoulders. She is doing what she loves yet there are people turning it into an international forum for the progression of the Kurdish population. Then there are people with vulgar comments from small villages consisting of 9 men to 1 women to 13 donkeys. Then there are death threats from self-righteous religious extremists. Then there are remarks from the ever so kind and thoughtful Kurdish women. There is a huge array of perspectives and arguments but let’s flip it on its head:

It’s a White Woman’s World

If an ordinary white woman sung this song, would there be this much outroar? If a white woman is free from any restrictions and implications when she wants to make music, why is HellyLuv different?

You can look at HellyLuv and see Arabification or you can snicker and gossip about HellyLuv trying to mimic MIA, Beyoncé, Shakira or Nicole Scherzinger. The parade of Kurdish flags in the video may show nationalism and pride, good or bad however you want to view it. Essentially, she is a bad person because she did what she did. That is the general view I have come across and it sickens me. HellyLuv will inspire a generation because she is a first.

Who Run The World? Girls?

What if a Kurdish man sung this song?

There would be no remarks that breach the wall of either “oh, he is trying to innovate Kurdish pop” or “he has sold his soul to the west”. Look at Darin, Swedish Pop Idol star, who was the first mediocre Western singer who had a Kurdish background. Darin was praised and idolised publicly. In similar circumstances, HellyLuv is in the crossfire of all kinds of judgement. Now, it simply cannot be because she is a woman… well no, maybe it is. All I can be certain of is that HellyLuv brought this up, unknowingly I assume, and now that it is recognised in a medium we can all see and discuss, there will be a push forward in this discourse.

Please, I want to hear your thoughts.


22 thoughts on “How HellyLuv Risked It All

  1. Comparing her to Darin is silly. The reason why people are upset isn’t because she’s a singer, it’s because they find her manners provocative and decadent. If a guy did the same sexual gimmick infront of a camera he’d be ridiculed as well as frowned upon.

    I also don’t see what she would inspire “generations”. Let’s be real, she’s nothing special. The reason why she’s getting attention (and you’re writing an unoriginal article) is because she’s managed to provocate people within her regional social structure. You don’t see American intellectuals reasoning that Miley Cyrus will inspire generations simply because she twerks; Pushing social boundaries is cool and all but lets be real, bro.

    1. She is doing what every other singer is doing, is she not? Darin, regardless of Kurdish background, is no different as an artist who is marketed to be successful and in demand.

      Well if you were aware of the monumental force that fandom has on our generation, I am 21 years old and I am talking generations below me including, then you are being naive. Miley Cyrus has an astounding following. For the Kurdish population, like any population, once you become famous, you don’t become un-famous. You can become infamous but you are still an influence. You can’t doubt that.

      1. Darin is an actual singer for starters, but if you’re going to be that general when comparing you might as well put in any musicians name… how about Vanilla Ice?

        I believe there needs to be a degree of intellectual thought to achieve sustainable social change. I don’t think dancing in a video to a shitty beat qualifies for anything else than inspiring people to… dance to a shitty beat. So no.

      2. Yeah exactly, Darin is a singer. So is HellyLuv. So is Miley Cyrus. Vanilla Ice is a rapper. They are all artists by definition.

        I don’t know if there will be a intellectual revolutionary figure that will spearhead this social change that we all are anticipating. However I do know that it has come from unlikely sources before. It could be HellyLuv.

        Or it could even be us. This is the global forum and maybe we inspire change by discussing it as a discourse.

  2. I think it comes down to a question of responsibility and peoples perception of responsibility generally.

    Is HellyLuv responsible for the portrayal of her race, culture and gender? Most would probably answer in the affirmative seeing as that (seems to be) the whole point of the arts in the first place.

    But with a pinch of responsibility comes a pinch of salt.

    Good article.

  3. Quae,

    Her manners are undoubtedly provocative and I believe that is what she has fully intended. The same mannerisms are present in the Western sing-song of the world and her Kurdish critics are the same listeners that would start slipping in Rihanna’s Bajan slang into conversation and bust Shakira’s moves. She is clearly Kurdish woman who is attempting to use Kurdistan as a platform for stardom, and she is attempting to do so by mimicking the Western formula. Why should people be so critical of this? Because as a Kurd she shouldn’t act this way? The whole of South Kurdistan has adopted a policy of Westernisation from the ‘Malls’ to the ‘Eiffel’ restaurants. She is just doing her thing, y u mad fo’? We should be more concerned about other aspects being eroded in our culture e.g. our language on TV. Rather than complain that it is ‘decadent’ because she acted Western and targeted it to a Kurdish audience. Kurdistan isn’t Atlantis. Culture evolves in some aspects and we can start by addressing the silent bruised elephant in the corner of the room that is the treatment of women in Kurdistan. Arranged marriages are part of our culture which lead to rape and self-immolation. I’m not going as far to say that she is going to spark a Kurdish women’s revolution and represents female empowerment, but neither of us have the displeasure of growing up as a repressed young Kurdish girl in Hewler curiously watching a Kurdish women dance as she likes and being deliberately provocative. It may not even be to your taste, regardless of whether she was Kurdish or not, in that case, just change the channel. Just change the channel bruh. Exactly as you would do on MTV; there will be music you like and music you don’t like. Times-are-a changing in Kurdistan and even if young girls just imitate her dance moves, it is a form of influence. The music is ceasing to be as one-dimensional as it was before; we can’t have Kurdish men singing in fields by themselves forever. We just can’t.

  4. “The parade of Kurdish flags in the video may show nationalism and pride” i beg you pardon, she waer these clothes because of KDP & barzani’s she would have done it differently, in america not kurdistan if the barzani family didn’t sponsor her. she was genuine about her kurdishness she would have learned kurdish, he managed to learn english which besides danish, he lived in Denmark. she doesn’t even sing in kurdish to even point this at kurdish culture etc

  5. darin and this girl helly are not kurds parse when you look at them in the category Kurdish music. these people grow up idolizing the singers from the west.and assimilated just like many kurds in Turkey, To make this an issue within the kurdish society is wrong unless kurds from kurdistan when free from arabs replaced arabic with english

  6. helly is definitely intellectual revolutionary figure for me, she inspires me leave education behind when I am 18 and travel to america with $200 with hope of getting record label deal, when i fail this plan, i wll attempt to be famous among kurds and get help from a corrupted party and prompted in my music

    1. She will inspire. She will inspire ones like her and she will inspire those who see the potential of what could be done. Maybe this is what Kurdistan needs. A serious reevaluation.

  7. Although I agree with most of what you said I really wish you had expanded on the feminist issue so clearly evident. You focused heavily on the “Kurdishness” of it all instead (understandable). However, the most poignant thing for me with the reaction to the video was the degrading of her sex. As if the way she danced, dressed and sang her song reflected on all Kurdish women somehow. I wander if she was a man whether you would have written this post or whether we would be having this dicussion at all…

    1. I appreciate it. I know I didn’t expand and I should have but I just felt inadequate talking about an issue I’m not well versed in. I wanted to present the issue and provoke thought rather than spell it out.

    2. I don’t think that you should reduce it to “if she was a woman whether I’d write it at all”. I mean I saw this example and it triggered a thought to write it as a way to push forward a discourse. It’s a deviation from the norm and it’s going to spark debate. It took Hellyluv to inspire me to write this.

  8. Thank you. I’m just sitting back and learning so much from your commentary. Thanks for keeping us abreast in the West on what’s happening. We don’t always have the tools to interpret. You’ve given us some tools. Thanks so much.

  9. ranja, I was being sarcastic. How can you accept one to be an intellectual revolutionary figure when they have not attended institution of third education.and just wait to finish her high or secondary education i.e her 18 birth and leave home. Kurdistan is full of these people who just drop out of education.thats why you have what you have in Kurdistan.

    1. I know she hasn’t but the thing is she inspired me to write this. It’s a chain reaction. Now we’re discussing it as an issue. I think a lot can happen from here onwards.

      I understand what you mean but the problem is we aren’t in the days of revolutionary figures as we know. It could come from someone unlikely. Or HellyLuv could inspire the revolutionary figure. Maybe we have to do it ourselves rather than hope that someone like the Kurdish Che Guevara comes along soon

  10. Well in my point of view I think that she succeeded in her goal as she hit approx. half million views on youtube in few days..For me I don’t care what she did I don’t even care if she stripped in the video at the end she is a singer & that’s what they do, The people wants her to sing while she dressed in decent clothes while they do not look at the way they dressed in their daily life or occasions I mean the kurdish parents allow their daughters to get dressed like prostitutes but if a girl made one mistake then she’s doomed..Now if Helly gets nude they say she is a whore if she wears a scarf then she is trying to be an Arab if she dressed a K.clothes then they say she’s an PDK’s asskisser the point is I thank God that I am a second generation kurd otherwise I would have commited suicide years ago! The funny thing is that someone mentioned her relation to Illuminati & everyone are talking about them like parrots as if they know who they are! who are you to talk about such global organization your Parties are no different from them (Ofcourse I don’t mean in power that’s silly to compare)

  11. After seeing the video and honestly reading most of the comments about it I think those who defend it they do not defend the song they are actually just attacking those who attack it, because those who attack it are using it as an excuse to look down on those who abandoned the traditional back in the stone ages mentality of the nation, so I guess this song will blow off pretty fast and I personally don’t like it much

    cheers on the good article guys!

  12. There are several issues in the article I would like to comment, but to keep this simple I will concentrate on the last part “Who run the World”:

    The comparison to Darin is in my view oversimplified and unjust. Attributing (and reducing?) Darin to mediocrity seems to be an important issue for some reason, but still, the staring points were different. Darin became popular before he became a singing star, as he was a contestant and the runner-up in back then the popular Swedish TV-show Idol. He had an appeal to his Swedish audience due to many factors. Additionally, he received international recognition before the Kurdish audience discovered him, and I am not sure if he himself has ever marketed his music specifically to Kurds. That does not say that he has not received more than his fair share of public criticism. On the contrary, he has been the target of skepticism, critique and pure hate during his whole career. We also know, from other experience, that male performers that do fall into certain categories receive a lot of critique and beyond. Examples of these can be found among pioneering stylist (Omar Dzayee was severy criticized when he released his music, and still there are Kurds who reject his style and destructive and non-Kurdish, Klpa: has been a singer for decades and the hatred toward him has been notorious, Karwan Osman: was detested and surely it was only after his martyrdom that he became a musical symbol) and new artists (Aras Koyi does not require close presentation, and knowing his personally I have witnesses tremendous critique and hatred aimed at him and his style, male singers associated to Halkawt Zahir and many other examples.)

    Additionally to me, it is not sure if HellyLuv can be seen as unique, especially innovative or creatively inspirational to the Kurdish audience. Hatred cannot ever be accepted whoever the receiver is. My experience however of what has pointed toward her is mainly critique of style and music, and I don’t think that it has been different from what many artists with comparable styles have received (such as Loka, Mzhden, Monica and Dashni Murad). This, of course, is mainly a matter of taste and opinion of music/style. I think that the public debate is a major part of cultural enrichment and refinement and we are risking a poor deranged if we slam all critical audiences as biased and hateful.

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