Zaza finds her way to success as a female Kurdish musician.
Boran Zaza, 18, was awarded the "Most Active Young Musician of the Year" last December. Her activities are beyond just playing music; she is an assistant manager in Youth Excellence on Stage Academy (YES), a piano student, and she participates in the youth orchestra. Zaza is making her dream come true and giving a different meaning to what it means to be a successful, young, female Kurdish musician. Spending a warm afternoon behind the piano in the Institute of Fine Arts in Erbil, she plays the tunes of Clair de Lune. Born into a family of musicians, Zaza says, "Music was something normal to me as a child. I grew up listening to classical music, especially guitar. I was 5 the first time I started music as a hobby-I was on the keyboard."Zaza spent her childhood years in Libya and Syria; she speaks fluent English, Arabic, and Kurdish, and is improving her French. She smiles while recalling her memories. "When I was in Syria we couldn't afford a piano, so my dream was on hold for some time. I continued to play keyboard as a hobby without any professional classes. When I was 11 we came to Kurdistan, and here I saw many opportunities. I found a piano teacher and I knew I could accomplish my dream academically. In this society, it is hard--especially for a girl--to pursue a career in music. Everyone wants you to be a doctor or an engineer. I was attached to my decision and started professional piano when I was 16. All I ever wanted was to become a good musician and transform the knowledge I know to all the students and people who love music."With the YES Academy days away, her bag is packed with paperwork and her phone rings continuously. "You see, I want people here to get an academic education when it comes to music. I wish to study abroad and bring back the knowledge we need to Kurdistan." The YES Academy, which Zaza is helping to organize, is prepared by a Houston-based NGO called American Voices. According to the academy: "This year, 250 young musicians, dancers, and actors of the YES Academy have been recruited from Erbil, Duhok, Suleimaniya, Kirkuk, Koya, Rania, Baghdad, Basra, Diyala, and Mosul." This is its fourth consecutive year in Kurdistan, and lasts from July 2-12, 2010. It is a summer performing arts program providing professional training for aspiring musicians, dancers, and actors aged 6 to 26. "There will be a comprehensive program of daily classes in music, dance, and theatre ranging from Broadway musical theatre and hip-hop dance to jazz and classical music." Zaza describes herself as a motivated and ambitious person, although she admits that "in Kurdistan, it is never a normal situation when a girl pursues her dreams in music. Sometimes when I am invited alone to participate in workshops outside of Kurdistan it is hard for me to always take part as a girl from a Kurdish society and family. There is always, always a limit." She expressed appreciation for the immense support of her parents in her success as a female Kurdish musician. "For the past four years I have held concerts, and there has been a positive reaction. People have shown love for my music and they enjoy what I do." One of Zaza's memorable successes includes organizing and undertaking a concert for F. Chopin's 200th anniversary in Erbil, which was held on April 19. "It was not only an occasion worth celebrating, but it also received the attention of locals and the media in the region." As she lays her hands to rest after her fingers dance across the piano, she says: "A typical day for me is waking up early, around 6:30 a.m., and then I walk to school. After my classes, I stay until 3 or 4 p.m. practicing on the piano. After that I am either doing some organization for American Voices, taking French classes, or I'm in the youth orchestra. When I finally make it home at night I am still working, on the Internet, or doing paperwork for activities that I am a part of." When asked about what she sees as success, Zaza gazes across the piano. "You see the difference that you make and it really gives you pleasure. It is the feeling that you have done something that makes someone happier, or produces something new that I like the most. It is the best thing you would want to accomplish in your life."Despite the confrontations she faces, Zaza is determined to continue her journey to success as a professional musician. "Kurdistan is very different compared to what it was six years ago. As long as you know what you want, you can do it if you have people to support you--but you must also work very hard. Girls here think they should be dependent on someone else or wait till they get married. This is wrong. You have your chance now, you don't have any excuse, and you need to start working hard, because the opportunities are there."
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