Zarifa Adiba, the conductor of Zohra, the first female orchestra in Afghanistan, writes for The Pavlovic Today about the power of music, perseverance, and community in a time of conflict and violence.
I’ve loved music ever since I was a kid, living my childhood in a small city in Pakistan, Quetta, Hazara Town. I was busy playing and studying in a small public school with a few friends. This was the place where I used to sing every day – just like the birds that sing in the morning to inspire a beautiful day for themselves, and those who listen to them. Singing different poems with my best friends was the key to my happiness, but I did not realize it back then.
From 2010 till 2014, the political state of Quetta in Pakistan was in havoc; every day I could hear target killings and blasts.
We lived in a very tiny town, with just a school and a small Bazar (store) named Ali Abad, which to this day is my favorite place on Earth. But even our tiny town was getting dangerous, so we had to go back to Afghanistan, the country we had left 15 years ago because of the security problems caused by the Taliban.
In 2014, moved back to my homeland, Afghanistan, but once there, it was not safter for us either. My stepfather had to go to Indonesia and become the refugee.
Three of my siblings went to school and the youngest one stayed at home with my mother, we had economic problems but fortunately, I have the best mother in the world and siblings who are always my motivation to live to the fullest and do what I want and love.
Though there are a lot of people in my surroundings that try to put me down and shut down my dreams, I am happy because of everything I do have in my life. Even though my problems range from problems at home to worrying about my bachelor degree in university to the people who are deeply against me and my work, the power to overcome all this given to me by my viola and Zohra Orchestra.
Even though my problems range from problems at home to worrying about my bachelor degree in university to the people who are deeply against me and my work, the power to overcome all this given to me by my viola and Zohra Orchestra.
Zohra orchestra is the reason behind all these smiles
Zohra, the first and only female orchestra of Afghanistan started with just 5 people two years ago. Zohra started developing day by day and did so by slowly expanding the number of its members and eventually became the first female orchestra in 2015.
Zohra has members from all over Afghanistan, from Nooristan to Bamyan and Kabul. It is the only place where all of us can smile from the depths of our hearts. Where we feel just as safe as we would anywhere else in the world. From the day we started playing music and working together as a team we have had shared one same feeling of love and hope.Afghanistan, we always hear something bad about the Taliban, ISIS, firings, bombings, and violence against women in all the news channels. Besides all this, each of the Zohra members has their own family problems that have forced some to part ways. And now we are afraid and fear of the potential of the Taliban shooting us.
In Afghanistan, we always hear something bad about the Taliban, ISIS, firings, bombings, and violence against women. Besides all this, each of the Zohra members has their own family problems that have forced some to part ways. And now we are afraid and fear of the potential of the Taliban shooting us.The only thing that brings us together and gives us hope for a better future for our country, is when all of Zohra comes together to play music.
The performance in Davos was for the world
In Davos, we showed the future of Afghanistan. We gave a message to the world that even Afghanistan has Taliban, it also has beauties which have been hidden behind ISIS and the Taliban.
Standing as the conductor of the first female orchestra and first female violist of my country was unbelievable.
The Europe Tour was defined by these messages from our Swiss musicians and German friends whom we were with for just a few weeks but we all feel like we knew each other for a long time. It is the magic of music that can connect people from around the world.
I really liked the Afghan embassy in Geneva, where we could eat and dance and listen to the beautiful music! I also loved running in the snow at the world economic forum.
I was thinking of my favorite moment but I can’t only think of one, this week was so amazing, when we danced, sang, played in the snow, ate together, went to the lake, saw the concert, and all the hugs and love. I love you all so much.
Zarifa, I will never forget the first day when we arrived. Nina and I were going in our rooms that all of you came out of your rooms to welcome us. You all were smiling, and I could see so much love and happiness in your eyes, I have never seen this before. Also, I will never forget our trip in the bus when you were singing beautiful songs, I enjoyed it so much I want to cry every time I think about those days. Haha
After our European tour, we promised to ourselves to dream more because we had seen that dreams do come true. I always wanted to study music, and now I am the conductor of the first female orchestra in my country’s history; I am living the dream that initially seemed impossible.
We promised to be messengers of solidarity from the country that has lost its meaning for a long time. We promised to be together and work and fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan and give them the rights they deserve to have. We promised to be good role models for all women in Afghanistan and give them at least a little hope that they can live the way they want.
I want Zohra orchestra to live forever, and for that, we need to improve the situation of the musicians in Afghanistan. My friend Nazira wants to be a professional cellist, but we need someone to create the facilities and opportunities to make this possible, and for that, I promise to work as much as I can in the future as a member of the government and as a lawyer.
Furthermore, all members of Zohra orchestra have a lot of goals and dreams that they are hopeful for. I do believe what Nelson Mandela says ‘the future belongs to the youth’ and I am so happy to join this movement as a musician, cycler, worker, and youth.