‘A career in music requires passion, patience and pluck’

By Wida Tausif
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Nayestan is the first Afghan band to perform in the biggest Eid festival in Australia, and its lead singer Emal Orya talks to Wida Tausif

Emal Orya is no stranger to the music world. He is a versatile singer, keyboard and table player, and though his band Nayestan is new, the group has established a name within the Afghan community. And all this despite holding down a full-time job as a sales representative in Telstra. “It can be challenging to juggle a full-time job and music,” says Orya, “but I love music enough to go through the hurdles.”

The band is set to perform in the upcoming biggest Eid festival in Australia for the third time.

You have been in the music world for relatively a long time. Tell us about your journey?

My journey of 15 years has indeed been a long learning curve. Music has not only taught me the skills I’ve attained as a musician and singer, but has also taught me inter-personal skills, customer service, time management, negotiation and marketing management. Music is like an ocean, and a life-time is not enough to learn everything within the music world. A career in music requires passion, patience and pluck—there are ups and downs but if you love what you do then you’re willing to go through the hurdles.

Tell us your stories of your collaborations with well-known Afghan and non-Afghan singers?

My musical journey began as a keyboardist for local Afghan, Indian and Pakistani singers here in Sydney. I have played keyboard with the well-known Ali Etemadi but I have also played for other well-known Indian and Pakistani singers such as Ustad Manzoor Ali Khan, Ustad Raza Ali Khan, Ustad Hamed Ali Khan and the Wadali Brothers. I began my singing career in 2010 releasing my first ever song called ‘Allah Ho’, which was a Qawali nmber and it was well received in Australia and overseas…

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You have performed at major festivals and events. How has your performance grown over the years?

The experience has been great as I never wanted to limit myself to just Afghan weddings, engagements, birthdays and so on. I wanted to perform and collaborate with other communities, simply because I want to showcase our music and culture and take immense pride in doing so. I had the privilege to perform at an event organised by Skateistan, a non-profit organisation using skateboarding as a tool for education and youth empowerment in Afghanistan. That night we raised almost $5,000 to keep Skateistan rolling over there.

I have also performed in exclusive events such as performing in NSW Arts Gallery where the ‘Hidden Treasures’ were being showcased. My stint in major festivals began in 2015 at the Chand Raat Eid Festival in Sydney—the biggest Eid festival in Australia and is held every year in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. It has such a fantastic vibe in Sydney with over 40,000+ spectators, roughly 3,000 of which are our fellow Afghans.

Tell us about your band.

It has been two years since I have formed the ‘Nayestan Music Band’, in which I am the lead singer. The other members are Naveed Jamal, my main keyboardist, and Bahram Kazimi, my percussionist. We come from different walks of life, but our passion for music binds us. We are not only a team but we have become like one small family. Our band is obviously set and we are contractually obligated to perform together, however we also perform along with other guitarists, and tabla players as and when the occasion requires it. Although our music changes with the occasion, my music style folklore (Mahali) and qawali.

How has the community reacted to your band manager being a woman?

Our band is managed by Arezo Safi, my wife. She is a final year law student doing her Masters and has also been an integral part of our band.

Putting personal support aside, she is professionally equipped to manage us, our bookings and our liaisons especially with non-afghan communities. You could say we both formed the band; in fact she came up with the idea that we should have contracts with our musicians and bring forward a rather professional approach to our band and our clients.

There are people in the community who are not comfortable with the idea of a female band manager. At times people might question her competence as a manager due to our personal relationship, but the truth is she runs the show and I hope that in the near future Afghans become more receptive to females who play pivotal role in the music industry.

Current projects?

I am currently working on two music video clips where one song will bein Dari and the other in Pashto. I will be releasing my Dari song ‘Dilbar Cheka Naaz Asti’ first. It has been composed by me and the music is arranged by Ali Sarshar from Sash Studios, Sydney. It will be released in a few months.

Nayestan will perform in Sydney on 25 June at Rosehill Gardens. Further announcements can be found on the band’s Facebook page Nayestan Music Band – EmalOrya.

 

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