Elaha Soroor (b. 1989) is a London-based vocalist and composer originally from Afghanistan. Elaha studied Iranian and Afghan traditional music, Indian classical and opera singing techniques in Iran, Afghanistan and India. One of the first female musicians to perform in public after the fall of the Taliban in 2000, Elaha rose to fame through the TV show Afghan Star in 2008. Her national popularity, in a society known for its persecution of female performers combined with outspoken views on women’s rights, led to an environment of serious personal danger, and she was eventually forced to flee Afghanistan. Elaha has worked as a composer and performer for theatre, dance and film including, Wales Millennium Centre's The Boy With Two Hearts (2021), Her latest release “Songs Of Our Mothers”, and is a collection of folk songs by Afghan women that have been passed down from mothers to daughters, is a collaborative album with the award winning collective band Kefaya and a bold protest against patriarchy and a joyous statement of resilience and emancipation.
Instrumentation: solo voice, flute, oboe, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, horn in F, trumpet in Bb, trombone, percussion, rubab, tabla and strings
Premiere: 5 July 2022, Spitalfields Music Festival, London. Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra w/Elaha Soroor, vocals, Saphawat Simab, rubab, Shahbaz Hussain, tabla and additional vocals by Yusuf Mahmoud. Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, conductor
This piece features the poem Baran (where is the rain’s home) by Mohammad Sharif Saiidi, a well-known contemporary poet from Afghanistan who strives to represent the voices of the diaspora through his work. The lyrics are about the life of an immigrant who is ripped from their homeland and thrown into the whirlpool of immigration and diaspora. Musical influences for this song were inspired from my work on The Boy With Two Hearts theatre play which follows a family in search of a safe haven. I tried to tell the story of this family in the composition of the song. My vision was to create a tapestry through combining elements of folk music and traditions from different geographic locations, such as India, Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Afghanistan. The composition represents the journey of refugees that cross many lands and borders, picking up elements of culture and tradition along the way. In that sense, this piece is the culmination of my own personal journey through the world.
– Elaha Soroor, June 2022
I am from the tribe of rain, I am of the spring generation
Drop by drop, I lend myself to rock and root
From the sky to the earth, I've fallen down to cry
To the thunder and lightning of my voice, the painful tune of my two
From the wind a slap and from the mountain, I've purchased thorns and
On my own shoulders how far I've carried my tombstone
Where is the home of the rain? My two wet eyes or the clouds,
I always carry my nest with me, I've nothing save for these two homes
The distance is great, betwixt weeping and smiling
You laugh through your window as I rain down upon the pavement
– Mohammad Sharif Saiidi
Matt Holborn, orchestrator
Matt Holborn is British improvising violinist and composer based in London. Performing in many capacities, Matt has appeared at countless international jazz festivals and venues and has become a leading figure in jazz violin. Matt composes and performs original music and jazz with various ensembles as well as running the Jazz Violin Podcast and teaching string players all over the world how to improvise.