Arts & Entertainment

Zohra Orchestra: All-Female Ensemble of Afghanistan

Courtesy of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the Opera House will be hosting a performance by the Zohra Orchestra, an all-woman orchestra from Afghanistan. The event will mark the 100th anniversary of the reclamation of Afghanistan’s independence and the 50th anniversary of Afghanistan-Australian diplomatic relations. Zohra is the name of a Persian goddess of music.

Led by Afghanistan’s first female conductor, the Zohra Orchestra was formed in 2015 with a group of 10 young musicians whose numbers swelled to 30.

Musicians faced abuse, insults and even bomb threats under the Taliban rule between the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 when, as the Zohra website notes, “draconian Taliban policies – which included an outright ban on music – led to the deaths and forced migration of many musicians, and the decimation of the country’s musical and cultural life”.

The Zohra musicians were determined to pursue their art and are the first women in their country to study music in over 30 years.

In 2016, they took their music to the world, performing for the World Economic Forum and giving 11 concerts in five cities. 

This established their reputation as accomplished artists in presenting both their national music as well as the works of Western classical composers, for which they learned German between their intensive rehearsals. 

They even taught their European colleagues the intricacy of the 7/8 time signature that is specific to Afghan music, and possibly also to Western jazz rhythms.

You have only one opportunity to hear this extraordinary orchestra. Don’t miss it.

Oct 14. Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $30-$50+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

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