All-female band harnesses power of music

All-female band harnesses power of music
A new Jordanian group, Naya, sets out to empower women in Arab world - and play some good music along the way.
3 min read
16 February, 2015
Naya has been described as an artistic, humanist and feminist project [Al-Araby]
Earlier this month, the Jordanian band Naya performed live to a packed Egyptian Opera House. It was the latest success for this all-female band set up to empower Arabic women - and to play some good music along the way.

Speaking to al-Araby al-Jadeed,
band founder Rola Jaradat said her creation was an artistic, humanist and feminist project all in one, focusing on traditional Arab music performed in a professional yet simple manner.

All-women bands are hardly the stuff of controversy or debate from a western persective. But in some parts of the Middle East, they are a challenge to orthodoxy. 

However, Jaradat says, Naya has opened eyes and broken down barriers: "The idea is to musically empower women in society, so that they may be represented in all areas. Our goal is not to challenge men, as some might think.

"The message we want to send is that creative women have a key role to play in the cultural renaissance and in breaking barriers and taboos."

Jaradat said the all-female band challenges the stereotype the Arab audience has of musical bands or solo singers, who are usually male singers and mixed orchestras.

Many men supported the band, she said, not least among them Jeryes Samawi, a former Jordanian culture minister.

Jaradat had a dream of starting an all-female band for many years.

She suggested it to successive culture ministers in Jordan in the past, but Jaradat says that initially she did not get much support.

As she sought to put the band together, she met about 20 female musicians. In the end, 12 were chosen.

The name of the band, Naya, has multiple meanings in more than one language. In Arabic, for example, it is the feminine of nay, a flute.

Jaradat says it is important to collaborate with women's associations and groups concerned with women's issues throughout the Arab world and beyond.

She said she hoped the band would continue performing events and festivals in its home country and abroad. In April, the band is booked to perform at the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman.

Rola Jaradat say the band aims to "empower women in society, so that they may be represented in all areas" [Al-Araby]

She added that culture helped overcome traditional divisions of labour, citing the "open and free Jordanian society", in which women have been able to participate in all aspects of cultural life since the founding of the kingdom.

Those who have seen Naya perform have noticed the band has its own style in presenting what is otherwise traditional Arab music, reformulating it with a freer spirit. From the moment the band takes to the stage, it declares its own musical identity without attempting to copy or mimic others, in appearance or in performance, and the audience has responded well to the band's unpretentious style.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.