Zohra - Afghan Women's Orchestra

Essemble Zohra - Afghanistan's first all-female orchestra.

Northern Ireland Programme & Partnership

Due to successful visa applications plans are now developing to bring some members or all (26) of the Afghan Women's Orchestra to Northern Ireland for a series of concerts, workshops, presentations and media events. August 2019. We would like to sincerely thank Simon & colleagues at Orchestra of St John for helping with visas.

Something amazing is happening: As word has begun to spread about this opportunity Beyond Skin & partners have been approached by people wanting to help, Read on to learn about this inspirational story and how you can be involved in the next chapter.

Zohra History

In 1996, the Taliban banned music in Aghanistan. Those found playing or selling it were imprisoned and tortured with many musicians fleeing the country. During the 30-year civil war, cultural institutions were decimated.

In 2001 from exile in Australia, musicologist Ahmad Sarmast started negotiating the rebuilding of music education with the Afghan government. Returning to Kabul, he inaugurated the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in 2010 under the patronage of the Ministry of Education. ANIM provides a dynamic, challenging, and safe learning environment for all students regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religious sect, or socio-economic circumstances. ANIM focus especially on supporting the most disadvantaged children in Afghanistan – orphans, street-working vendors and girls.

In 2014, a young trumpeter called Meena asked Dr Sarmast if she and her friends could form an all-girl ensemble. They wanted to play music on their own and develop their own style of playing and repertoire.  Since one of ANIM’s great focuses is girls’ education, Dr Sarmast was thrilled by the idea. So, the Afghan Women’s Orchestra (AKA Ensemble Zohra) was born. It is the first ever all – female ensemble in the history of Afghanistan.

ANIM & Beyond Skin Northern Ireland link
In 2016 Darren Ferguson (founder & CEO Beyond Skin) and Dr Ahmad Sarmast met in Bogota Colombia sharing a talk at a conference titled ‘music to unlearn war” The conference was in partnership with Batuta Foundation and British Council. Darren & Ahmad stayed in touch with a Northern Ireland visit always in the conversation.
In September 2017 Beyond Skin invited Dr Sarmast’s to Northern Ireland. His visit included guest speaker at Mount Stewart conversations festival visiting various youth groups and meeting other members of the #ArtsDialogue collective. an international intergenerational team of musicians, artists, producers, writers & peace activists. www.artsdialogue.org

Your turn to be part of the story: As word has begun to spread about this opportunity Beyond Skin & partners have been approached by people wanting to help, sharing the vision to make this happen. Beyond Skin & partners are therefore welcoming this support and putting a call out for sponsorship.

(1) Donate via Local Giving towards the cost of the entire programme.

(2) Sponsor one or more girls from the Orchestra.

(3) Provide in-kind support.

WOMAD Foundation, Arts Council of Northern Ireland have already committed some funding. Programme delivery partners to date are Orchestra of St John, Yallaa, Ulster Orchestra, National Trust (Mount Stewart), Brehon Advisory.

Kind souls to date who are helping us fundraise: Stephanie Baine, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Soroptimist Belfast Club, Barclays Eagle Labs. 

Would you like to be a part of this amazing story? Please email info.beyondskin@gmail.com or phone/whatsapp +447877756987

Video link to Orchestra of St John programme