Zahra is the director of the Young Women’s Music Project, an educational charity that offers free workshops for women aged 14-21, which provide an inclusive and supportive space for young women to make music together, learn new skills, express themselves, and grow in confidence. As a group YWMP have been moving from strength-to-strength, performing, hosting, DJing and organising events, whilst still finding time to regularly meet and hang out. They also hold the title of BBC Introducing Oxford’s artist of the year. Read more about the project here.
Her relationship with the project has evolved over more than a decade; she entered as a participant first, before beginning training on the project at just 16 under the guidance of her mentor Kate Garett and, eventually, coming to run it herself.
The multifaceted nature of Zahra’s role allowed her to progress towards other forms of youth and community work outside of YWMP. She has delivered individual mentoring with young artists and musicians via her label BG Records which focused on giving a voice to mainly rappers from often forgotten parts of town. She has also facilitated workshops on song writing, performing and producing in hospitals and schools, as well as regularly working with Crisis.
Coming from a multicultural, working-class background in Cowley, Oxford, Zahra saw from an early age how inaccessible music was to many young and/or vulnerable people. Not only more formal kinds of music education but also spaces to experiment and play. She sees music as a potential access point, or a stepping stone into a place where young, marginalised or at risk people can express themselves, as part of a recovery process or a discovery process. Music is undeniably therapeutic, but it also helps to build confidence, trust and agency.
As well as pursuing her own musical projects she is trained as a sound engineer, has run collaborative projects with museums like Modern Art Oxford, Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers. The community-based aspect of her practice continues to influence and inspire her.