For centuries, dengbej songs served as a combination news bulletin, history lesson and evening’s entertainment. Master singers built up large repertoires of songs — and could recite the historical events they describe.
Mistefa Bedevi, and his son, Sakir, are both dengbej singers. Mistefa says he began when he was just 5 years old, more than a half-century ago. “When a singer came, I’d do anything to listen,” he says. “If they kicked me out, I’d scramble up to listen at the chimney.”