Sing the world to peace
Days before her first performance in Mumbai, Jordan's 'musical ambassador' FARAH SIRAJ talks to MOEENA HALIM about forming the Musical United Nations, promoting peace through her songs and teaching students in Chennai
Farah Siraj has often been described as the Norah Jones of the East. Siraj says she loves the comparison. But in some ways it sells her short, because the Jordanian songstress is more than just a jazz musician with a mesmerising voice.
Music, for her, is a powerful tool to inspire people to make positive changes. “My music stands for peace, tolerance and unity. My purpose in life is to help and heal as many people as I can through my music. It is my duty, and my way of thanking God for the blessings he has given me,” she tells us over email.
Siraj, who has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious platforms, including the United Nations, Nobel Prize Hall and the World Economic Forum, will perform in Mumbai for the first time on April 20. “We will perform Arabic, Spanish and English tunes. It’ll be a fun concert,” promises Siraj, who began taking music lessons at the age of three. “I did not come from a musical family, but was blessed to have a family that saw my love for music and encouraged it from a young age. My mother always had a deep appreciation for music and taught me to really listen to music,” she reveals.
Growing up in Amman, Jordan, Siraj was surrounded by Middle Eastern music but was also exposed to a lot of Western music. “Western musical studies gave me a base for harmony, which Middle Eastern music lacks. It was natural for my two musical worlds to collide,” she says, as explanation for her hard-to-label music, which she refers to as Arabian Flamenco Jazz.
The Farah Siraj band consists of musicians from different parts of the world. “It’s a musical melting pot with musicians from the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and the USA. I like to call it a Musical United Nations. It’s very inspiring to perform with people from different cultures. It makes you grow, both musically and personally,” she says.
Siraj is currently trying to juggle teaching at Chennai’s Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) during the week and touring on the weekends. “It’s a great experience. My stint in India has been inspiring and an enlightening one, and I know it will always stay with me. It’s a true pleasure teaching the students at SAM. I am also learning a lot from them, so it’s a healthy cultural exchange,” she says, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised if Carnatic music found its way to her music next. Performing for audiences in the city, she says, is her way of thanking India for giving her the gift of inspiration.
Farah Siraj will perform at Blue Frog on April 20, 9.30 pm firstname.lastname@example.org