Saturday, 19 November 2011

Deeyah, a critically acclaimed music producer and prize winning human rights activist, was born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi descent. Deeyah is known for her outspoken support of women's rights, freedom of expression and peace.


Deeyah, a critically acclaimed music producer and prize winning human rights activist, was born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi descent.  Deeyah is known for her outspoken support of women's rights, freedom of expression and peace.

She started her career in music as a singer but eventually stopped performing due to dangerous pressures on her, she now produces projects that give a voice to others, combing her passions for art and activism. Her dedication to Freemuse, a non-profit that supports freedom of expression for music artists, is born from her own personal struggles. Deeyah produced the critically acclaimed, Listen to the Banned, with Freemuse¹s program manager, Ole Reitov. The CD features artists from Asia, Africa and the Middle East who’ve experienced persecution, censorship or imprisonment for their artistic expression.

In tune with her own experiences and desire to empower women, Deeyah started Sisterhood in 2007. It is an ongoing project designed to empower young Muslim women by encouraging artistic expression across creative disciplines.

Deeyah is deeply committed to the advancement of women's issues and seeks to explore the role of women and the challenges facing them, especially in Muslim and South East Asian society. No longer in front of the camera, she aims to speak more powerfully from behind it; she is currently producing ‘Killing In The Name Of’ a documentary addressing the challenges Europe faces as ‘honour based crimes’ continue to grow within ethnic immigrant communities.

In 2010, Deeyah created FUUSE, a social purpose company that provides a platform for her music and film projects. Fuuse is rooted in Deeyah's dedication to human rights and cross-cultural awareness and dialogue through artistic articulation.

In 2011, Deeyah founded AVA, an NGO born from her deep passion and dedication to support, engage, strengthen and amplify the voices of women and young people and to shed light on human rights violations against women. Seeking a world where women have the opportunity to fulfill their potential for women to play a bigger role in contributing to the shaping of our future world-- for women to lead a life free from violence, discrimination, abuse, exploitation and oppression.  AVA's work will begin with women and young people of the Indian Sub-continent, the Greater Middle East and their diaspora communities in Western countries.   AVA encompasses the initiatives I HAVE A VOICE (i-HAV), Memini, Sisterhood and HBVA.



Deeyah’s history:

Deeyah’s upbringing was steeped in the rich culture and heritage of her parents. While her mother worked with women and children as both a teacher and translator, it was Deeyah’s father’s passion for music that shaped her life. A musical enthusiast, he was a leader in the cultural exchange between Norway and Pakistan, and encouraged seven year-old Deeyah to study with Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan (recognized as the most prominent maestro of the Khyal Musical tradition). Cultural tradition reserved these lessons for male pupils, but Deeyah persevered and impressed Khan with her vocal talent, discipline and dedication to music; after several years of Ustad Bade Fateh Ali Khan’s mentorship, she was declared, “one of his favorite students.” Later Deeyah would train with another master of North Indian Classical music, Ustad Sultan Khan. He would make the trip to Norway in order to give her lessons after proving again her devotion to the art form.

From an early age Deeyah’s unique musical abilities captured the attention of world-renowned musicians and music industry veterans.  At only eight years, Deeyah immersed in a music career usually reserved for those three times her age; she performed on television and at music festivals. By age 12, she was in the studio recording duets with Norwegian pop artists and participating in collaborations with folk and jazz legends like Jan Garbarek, David Lindley Ustad Nazim Ali Khan.  By 13, she signed her first recording contract.  At 15, she released her solo debut featuring Ustad Sultan Khan, Pakistani tabla legend Ustad Shaukat Hussain Khan, and renowned Norwegian musicians Knut Reiersrud, Reidar Skår, Paolo Vinaccia, and Audun Erlien. The young Mercury Prize winning Talvin Singh accompanied her on her first national concert tour.

While her musical accomplishments shine, Deeyah has been shadowed by controversy: music is typically considered not to be an acceptable profession for a respectable woman of her cultural heritage. After years of enduring constant harassment, intimidation and physical threats in silence, Deeyah left Norway in 1996 for the UK.

For several years Deeyah kept a low profile, only participating in compositional collaborations and recording vocals for other projects and artists.  In 2004 Deeyah resumed her career as a solo recording artist, as her popularity grew, the symptoms of the same problem that she had fled from in Norway resurfaced in the UK. Deeyah once again packed her bags and left for the safety of the United States. Tired of running and protecting the image of conservative segments within her community, Deeyah finally made the first step towards reclaiming her life. Out of the years of anger, sadness and frustration, her most controversial song and video to date ‘What Will It Be?’ was born.

Deeyah stopped performing in 2006 and recorded her last album Ataraxis in 2007. The album featured collaborations with Grammy winning pianist Bob James, Police guitarist Andy Summers, and acclaimed Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer.

In 2009 Deeyah was awarded the Freedom To Create Prize for “What Will It Be” and Sisterhood project.

Deeyah muses she is a product of diversity:  “My life growing up was dichotomous; at home I was immersed in a centuries-old musical art form, while around me I had MTV and Western pop culture.” This understanding and sense of belonging to both worlds has formed Deeyah's outlook on life and defined her as a woman, activist and artist.