DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Oud player Yervant Bostanci can be considered a symbol of the richly diverse and divided Diyarbakir, the historical metropolis of southeastern Anatolia. An ethnic Armenian in a predominantly Kurdish city, he left his country in the 1990s. His life was threatened when he sang in his mother tongue and he fled, only to return as an international celebrity decades later. Now, despite all the unrest in Diyarbakir, he is determined to stay in the city he first escaped, then re-embraced.
In 2004, the older attendees of the Diyarbakir Culture and Arts Festival thought that an oud player from the United States who could sing in Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian looked familiar. Upon closer inspection, he was identified as Yervant, the son of Yako, a maker of pushis, the traditional headgear of the region also known as keffiyeh. The prodigal son who had left his hometown in 1976 had returned after more than four decades. He was no longer a wedding singer but an internationally successful musician with several records to his name.