Zohra - Afghan Women's Orchestra

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

Northern Ireland Programme & Partnership

Latest: In conversation video with Taranom (former musician Afghan Women's Orchestra)

An international partnership programme between the organisations Beyond Skin, Yallaa, Unique New Adventures Ltd (Northern Ireland) and the 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 has been given start up investment funding from WOMAD Foundation with additional support from Arts Council Northern Ireland and Community Relations Council.

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

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.

#ArtsDialogue at Mount Stewart

Your turn to be part of the story: 

(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.

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