Nu Civilisation Orchestra Play Yazz Ahmed

Yazz Ahmed with fluegelhorn

Tomorrow’s Warriors premieres a pioneering new work for an all-female ensemble from the Nu Civilisation Orchestra on 8 March at WOW! Women of the World Festival, The Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall. We caught up with rising star, Yazz Ahmed and composer for this new work,

British-Bahrani composer and trumpeter, award-winning Yazz Ahmed has decided to take on a significant writing challenge to create new work about strong female role models – those whose considerable influence changed the course of history, who continue to champion the rights of women or are making quiet daily impacts with their unstinting courage to flourish in male dominated environments. Yazz’s exceptional ability in conveying an intellectually stimulating and emotional odyssey through her work is busy attacking this multi layered concept into a Suite of Six movements.

Since the turn of the year’s end, the prolific Yazz Ahmed has delved into researching the backgrounds, lives and the stories of six incredible women or representations of womankind to fuel themes for her new work; women who by a force of nature, subtle persuasion or an impenetrable belief in making impossible changes happen (always against all odds) and being able to look beyond their own lives or community. Teaming up with Tomorrow’s Warriors for the second time, Yazz has been commissioned to write a new work that celebrates strong female role models. Tomorrow’s Warriors CEO, Janine Irons MBE explains, ‘Since the beginning of time, women have had to demonstrate remarkable resilience to survive the challenges of inequality and life generally. As a young woman in the music industry, Yazz will be very mindful of this. We are therefore delighted to be able to offer her this important commission, to provide an excellent professional development opportunity both for Yazz and for the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, and to introduce our audiences to some wonderful new music.’

Knowing that Yazz is working with the all-female ensemble of musicians from the NCO brings an entirely fresh and liberating way of working, as she will be able to incorporate their voices and responses through the young musicians’ improvising and creative approach to the material.


“The women who inspire me to compose this new work are truly phenomenal” YAZZ AHMED

Yazz, whose Arabic heritage reverberates throughout her music, is in the midst of creating of six rather distinctive pieces that form her new suite, (as yet still untitled), revelling in the chance to meld and fuse musical styles from a range of traditions to reflect the emotion and dynamism of the narratives. NCO ensemble players’ diverse backgrounds in jazz and classical music, will be taken further with interesting interpretations using Arabic percussion by Corrina Silvester – especially pertinent to the movement dedicated to Haifaa al-Mansour – also noting that audiences may expect to hear experimentations in electronic music. Yazz will come at each piece within its own frame, for example, she is fascinated by the tonal values in the speech that Malala Yousafzai delivered at the UN. Not only was Yazz captivated by Malala Yousafzai’s words and her incredible courage, but she was inspired by the manner in which this teenager delivered her legendary statement – her lilting voice, melodic, strong and full of persuasive rhythms. In the case of Ruby Bridges, Yazz’s research focuses that as a six-year child whilst there was pandemonium all around her as she was escorted to school, being taunted and jeered at, she did not understand the full impact of what was going on, but believed that the confusion around her was rather like the atmosphere created at Mardi Gras. Yazz plans to tap into some fragments of those genuine memories to reflect the then frame of mind of a very young girl – who later would go on to be a powerful role model and symbol for civil liberty.

Most of all I am drawing personal inspiration from the project. This composition means so much to me because growing up I did not have role models around me. There were really no females that I knew about or even made aware of – and from some girls, even today, this is still a big gap. Girls need to be encouraged. I see my composition as a way to celebrate  women, and to raise their aspirations. In choosing women from today as well as women from the past –many of whom we still don’t know enough about – for me these six movements celebrate some rather special people who fought and continue to fight. How many people know just what Barbara Thompson goes through every day to give her performances as a top jazz musician. Everyday she fights through her condition (Parkinson’s disease) . A battle she fights to keep herself performing and not giving in to this awful illness.

Yazz anticipates that the NCO female musicians, who hail from quite a range of interesting backgrounds, bring certain attitudes to bear, as well as a very keen understanding of the themes, and cannot help but offer their unmatched interpretation of her music. “I am excited by this concept – of the mixture in the music: jazz; classical; electronic Arabic – it will be moving to see how this precocious ensemble take on the differing waves of compositions and create their own impressions of communicating strong female role models from all around the world. Yes, working with the NCO to celebrate difference and tremendous courage of these women from all walks of life with such a group of talented young players is a real gift.”

We hope that Yazz Ahmed’s inspirational vision for music-making and composing will leave you with a musical memory of the courageous power of young girls and women to transform the world. Do come to The Purcell Room on 8 March to see the exceptional all-female ensemble of the New Civilisation Orchestra.

PRS for Music Foundation logoMade possible through generous funding from the PRS for Music Foundation’s Women Make Music strand, Yazz Ahmed’s new work premieres in The Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall and is part of the annual WOW! Women of the World Festival on Sunday 8 March 2015

Tickets: Book Online or purchase from The Southbank Centre Box Office

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