BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
BBC Radio 3

Radio 3

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Tara Jaff
Send us your review:
Describe the atmosphere and live music at a local pub, restaurant, festival, church or temple, club night.... inspire other people to check it out!

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

Where I Play:

I left Iraq in 1976 and came to the UK as a student. I'd brought my guitar with me from Iraq and at college I met some English people who used to go to this folk club in Sutton, on top of a pub called The Albion. They invited me along. People would bring along their guitars and just play. That was the first time I ever heard of Ralph McTell and it was my first taste of English folk music. I found it fascinating! I just loved getting into different music scenes here and to be very much part of it and to learn and exchange ideas. I'd watch or join in performances by different bands at the college too. It was a great time. If they wanted me to play Ralph McTell, then that's what I would play! But I was trying to adapt, for the guitar, the kind of Kurdish tunes, songs and rhythms that I had heard from my relatives at home, singing and dancing at parties and family celebrations, and maybe even combine it with some Western styles.

My guitar playing style was very limited when I arrived. I was self-taught and there was no-one around in Baghdad who played the instrument from whom I could learn. In London I could meet lots of people who played and I could go and get books and guitar tutors.

Tara JaffLater, at university, I started meeting Kurds from the other regions of Kurdistan for the first time, from Iran and from Turkey, which got me closer in touch with Kurdish music. So the next instrument that I picked up was the saz, mostly played by Kurds from Turkey. It's like a bouzouki with a long neck, but the scale is different because it's got quarter tones in it. I was determined to learn to play it.

Then someone asked me to join a Chilean band. They needed a female singer and I said look I don't speak any Spanish and they said don't worry, we'll teach you. They trained me so well to sing in Spanish that nobody thought I was anything but Chilean. I was also playing the guitar and a small stringed instrument, the charango, in the band, though sometimes I'd insert a Kurdish song into the set, but of course it would have a Chilean feel to it.

I just totally fell in love with an instrument when somebody lent me a record 'Renaissance of the Celtic Harp' by Alan Stivell, the harpist from Brittany. I thought: That's it! This is the instrument that I want to learn! The whole thing is that the harp is originally from the Middle East anyway. It's originally Sumerian and Assyrian, so it comes from our region and that gave it even more of a resonance for me. I wanted to learn it and bring it back to its origins. Harps are pretty expensive, but I was earning a living at the time as a bilingual secretary. So I managed to save up and find a shop which sold them. Then I found a harp teacher and started lessons. Now my main activity is as singer and harpist. I arrange songs for the harp and the songs that I perform are adapted from Kurdish poetry or old Kurdish songs.

Tara Jaff

[next page]
// page 1 | 2 | 3

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy