Zohra Orchestra is my joy

I loved music since I was a kid. I lived my childhood in a small city of Pakistan, Quetta, in Hazara Town. There, I was busy playing and studying in a small public school. I had a few friends. In that place, I used to sing every day.

It was almost like the birds singing in the morning to start a beautiful day for everyone. Singing different poems with my best friends was the key to my happiness, but I never realized that. When I started singing, I never wanted to focus on it. It seemed to be an impossible choice in our society. Quetta politics were the worst between the years 2010- 2014. Every day one could hear target killings and blasts. We had a very tiny town where just our school and a small Bazar named Ali Abad was located. It is still my favourite place. However, even that tiny town was getting dangerous for us. So we had to come back to our country which we had left 15 years ago, because of Taliban and the security problems. Again, we had to move because of the same situation. Around 2014, we had to move back to my homeland, Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not good for us. We had a lot to face besides all the conflicts. My dad (step father) had to go to Indonesia and become a refugee.

You showed us your beautiful Afghan dress for the concert and we were like: You are sooooo beautiful and the concert in Zurich, when Afghan percussions were played during the percussion concert.

– Nina

Zarifa, I will never forget the first day when we arrived. Nina and I were going in our rooms when 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 by bus, when you were singing beautiful songs. I enjoyed it so much that I want to cry every time I think about those days.

– Sydney

My three siblings go to school and the youngest one is at home with my mother. We have economical problems, but fortunately, I have the best mother in the world and siblings too. They are always my power to live to the fullest. That allows me to do what I want and love. Though, a lot of people always try to put you down. In a way, I am happy because of whatever I have in my life, from the problems at home, to worrying about my bachelor degree and university, including the people who are deeply against me and my work. A power has been given to me in the form of my viola and Zohra Orchestra.

Zohra is the reason behind all these smiles. Zohra is the first and the only female orchestra of Afghanistan. It started with just 5 people, two years ago. We never thought of having a female orchestra. Zohra was built day by day. Soon, the membership of the group expanded and it changed into the first female orchestra in 2015. Zohra has members from all over Afghanistan. It has members from Nooristan to Bamyan and Kabul. Zohra orchestra is the only place where all of us can smile from the depth of our hearts. Here, we feel safe. From the day we started playing music and working together as a team, we always had one feeling and that was love and hope. I personally believe that if you have these two things in your life and in your heart, you are going to be successful, not just in your career, but, in life as well. Zohra has proven the power of love and hope.

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.

– Mathew

I was thinking of my favourite moment but I can’t think of only 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.

– Ama

In Afghanistan, we always hear something bad about the Talibans. ISIS, firing, bombing and violence against women appear in all the news channels. Besides all these, the Zohra members have their family problems. It has stopped them from another side. This is also making them leave the orchestra. Now we are afraid and often think what if the Talibans shoot us! The only thing that brings us together and gives us hope for a better future and a good and peaceful feeling is when all of Zohra come together and make music. This makes Zohra more beautiful.

The performance in Davos was for the world. We represented the future Afghanistan and Afghanistan of 30 years ago. We gave a message to the world that if Afghanistan has Taliban, it also has beauties which remain hidden behind ISIS and Talibans. Standing as the conductor of the first female orchestra as well as the first female violist of my country was unbelievable! The Europe Tour is defined by messages from our Swiss musicians and German friends with whom we spent a few weeks. Somehow, we all felt like we knew each other for a long time and it is the magic of music that connected people from around the world.

I remember the party at Davos where we all were dancing in the room. It was fun. I remember the first day when we all were so shy to meet, but at the same time so excited. I remember the concert at Zurich. It was so cool to see you on the stage. I enjoyed it. I remember the fact that we were like family and I remember the speech that I read for every one of you. It was so hard. I didn’t want to let you go. I remember the day on the mountain where you all were against me! It was fun.

– Richard

The very last night when we had our last concert in Geneva’s international school for public was so exciting for all of us, but, at the same time, it was sad as well. This is because we were getting nearer to say good bye and none of us wanted to. The gifts and all the love that they gave us were unforgettable. Also, the letter that they had written and Richard read for us. No one could stop their tears. When I saw everyone crying, once again, we realized how powerful music is, to bring peace in the world and explore the solidarity between people and Music can be the key.

After our Europe Tour we promised to dream more because dreams come true. I always wanted to study music and now I am conductor of the first female orchestra in my country. It was a dream that always seemed impossible, but today, I am inside that dream. We promised to spread the message 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 right in our country and give them the position that they belong to. We promised to be good role models for the women in Afghanistan and give them at least a little hope that they can live the way they want to. I want Zohra Orchestra to continue forever and for that we need to improve the situation of the musicians in our country. My friend Nazira wants to be a professional cellist. The other members have similar sentiments too, but we need someone to create the facility and opportunity to be on the stage and for that I promise to work as much as I can, as a member of the Government or as a lawyer.

Furthermore, all of Zohra has a lot of goals and dreams. 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, cyclist, worker and a youngster.