Intern Joel Taylor had a chat with our new Harmonise Facilitator, Faz Shah, about life and music
What’s your story with music?
I got involved with music around the age of 6. I was getting into trouble in school, couldn’t concentrate in lessons, and just generally being a nuisance. The music teacher told me to try the violin. Quickly, I found that my school grades improved because I had an outlet, an escapism from all the confusion of school and life at that time.
Then I got introduced to beatboxing by Kieran Beatboxer. School was a hostile place to be, and racism was not unusual in that area (Oldham), but when I started beatboxing it was a way of getting some positive attention. I started working with other artists, playing violin on beats for local rappers and refining my freestyle beatboxing skills with dancers as well. These collaborations enabled me to break a few barriers between the Asian community and the live music scene.
What do you do with MAI?
I am the North West Programme Coordinator for Harmonise. The programme helps connect refugee and asylum seeker school children with their peers, to transform prejudice through a fun, shared experience. I have 8 years experience working in schools and consider the individual needs of each school and its students before anything else.
I have been involved with Music Action International for two years. It is a fantastic organisation. The people are so dedicated and I have learnt so much. It is so rewarding to work with young refugees and other children through music, to enable them to settle into their new life in the UK and give them direction and hope for the future.
How has music changed your life?
Finding value in myself came through music as it took me to new places and people I would have never thought would become my closest friends. In school, it helped me stop fighting but most importantly, music has helped me understand the changes in my own life and the lives of others. Music has helped shape my identity and connect with those around me.
What song has meaning in your life?
One of the most influential songs in my life is called Mast Qalandar. It is a very early memory for me as my father used to play this on cassette at home along with his Pashto Tapay (traditional Pakistani music). It is about the ways of a righteous Qalandar, a high spiritual saint who enjoys freedom from earthly desires. The Qawaali genre has its roots in mystic Islamic Sufism, evoking my inner child whenever I hear it played.