We are in daily contact with our friends in Afghanistan during this incredibly challenging time. We would ask everyone to do what you can to help. Lobby you MPs to influence action the immediate humanitarian need and to make the settlement of refugees a fast process. You can donate here to support our work assisting our friends in Afghanistan

Project of the Year Award

STATEMENT: Our music collaboration project featuring young musicians from Northern Ireland & Afghanistan has been shortlisted for National Lottery Project of the Year Awards. We are all delighted at this recognition but obviously it comes at a time when our friends in Afghanistan face an uncertain future and many are at risk. We have considered this carefully and on advice from the director of ANIM in Afghanistan we have decided to share and promote this achievement.  It must be noted that the shortlist decision was made before the fall of Afghanistan and that the vote for Beyond Skin is due to being the UK organisation in receipt of the Lottery Support. This project was made possible by many talented people Northern Ireland & Afganistan. See video links and more details below. 

Our friends in Afghanistan have had their freedoms & choice taken away to play music and make art. Many fear for their lives. We see this Award as an opportunity to ensure the call for help from musicians/artists and their families are not forgotten and remains a priority for the international community to find solutions to help our global neighbours and to protect the 5 Music Rights for everyone. We call on the music community to come together and help.

You can vote at this link and also on Twitter share & support with the hashtag #NLABeyondSkin Tiwitter @beyondskin  Instagram @beyondskinmedia  @LottoGoodCauses

Women's Work Festival 18-06-21

"In Gham-e-be Haya" Press Release 13-04-21

"Arsala Khan" Black Star Liner Press Release 30-01-21

#IAmMyVoice Campaign 10-03-21

Together in Music Press Release 13-10-20

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

Northern Ireland Partnership Programme

An international partnership developed by Beyond Skin and Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), home of the Afghan Women’s Orchestra also known as Ensemble Zohra.

As part of the programme current & former students from ANIM are collaborating with young female musicians in Northern Ireland leading eventually to Afghan Women’s Orchestra coming to Northern Ireland for a series of performances.
The project is supported by WOMAD Foundation, Arts Council Northern Ireland Lottery Programme, Community Relations Council, Factor Law and individual donors. To date the associate organisations/companies in the consortium include Yallaa, Unique New Adventure Ltd, Traditional Arts Partnership & 3FortyFive Films.

Listen to Arasla Khan (Black Star Liner mix) on bandcamp

Listen to Arasla Khan (Black Star Liner mix) with photoslide on youtube

In 2016 Darren Ferguson (founder & CEO Beyond Skin) and Dr Ahmad Sarmast (founder and director of Afghanistan National Institute of Music) 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.

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.