Ensemble Zohra - Afghanistan's first all-female orchestra.
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 will be 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 programme was firstly given start a up investment from the WOMAD Foundation with support for specific projects within the programme from Arts Council Northern Ireland, 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.
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. www.artsdialogue.org
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.
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