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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Tara Jaff
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Musician: Tara Jaff

Location: London

Instruments: voice, harp

Music: Kurdish

HOW I CAME TO THIS MUSIC          WHERE I PLAY          A FAVOURITE SONG Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story


Listen to Tara and fellow-refugees perform with Eliza Carthy at
Celebrating Sanctuary 2002

This story includes material from Celebrating Sanctuary: Conversations with
Refugee Artists

(London Arts, 2002)

Listen  Listen (6'05) to 'Toshé' performed by Tara Jaff, live at 'Celebrating Sanctuary', a festival of music to mark Refugee Week, 2002.

Listen  Listen (2'26) to Tara Jaff talk about her music


'They trained me so well to sing in Spanish that nobody thought I was anything but Chilean.'

How I came to this music:

I come from Kurdistan on the Iraqi side. My relatives all lived in Halabjah. We used to visit them there but we lived in Baghdad, which was where I was born and where my father worked as a diplomat for Iraq, before Saddam Hussein came to power.

From what I remember life was not as bad as it became under his regime. There were lots of Kurds in the government then, although there's always been some animosity between the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish People, because we have always wanted our own autonomous rights. But the situation has gotten much worse under Saddam who has wanted to wipe us out and destroy us. He doesn't just take that position against the Kurds, he takes it against all the Iraqi People. The kind of oppression we see in Iraq today did not exist then to the same extent.

Tara JaffIn Baghdad I studied Western Classical music and piano at the Musical Academy that used to be there. I'd go there after school. At High School I also picked up the guitar, which was quite fashionable to play at the time. I played mainly at family parties or by myself, Classical music on the piano and anything that I could pick up on the guitar - from Western Folk to local music and tunes that I wrote myself. I hadn't actually focused on playing Kurdish music at that time.

After the Ba'ath Government took power, the Academy changed. The Ba'ath Party had a students' organisation, the National Union of Iraqi Students, and everybody had to join. If you didn't, you were in trouble. When my sister and I wanted to carry on learning piano, the Academy gave us an enrolment form for the Students' Union. In other words we had to become Ba'athists and we refused. So we were told we could no longer come to the Academy. That was my first personal experience of the oppression.

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