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Music, Poetry and Well-Being Event

Written by Sohail Jannesari, a volunteer at the ACAA


In ancient Persia, Zoroastrian doctors would sometimes prescribe the reading of poetry and listening to music as a treatment for well-being problems. It was, therefore, fitting that on Saturday night the ACAA hosted an evening of Persian music and poetry, as well as a discussion on well-being. The event reflected the Afghan and Central Asian Association’s role not only as a provider of practical support, such as legal advice and English language classes, but as a promoter of Persian culture and well-being. The event was organised in collaboration with Sohail, a King’s College PhD student who is looking at how researchers should work with people going through the asylum process and the organisations that support them.


The evening began with Saraa and Henry performing several songs including Shaad Kon Jane Man, Ey Sareban and the folk song Segodar. Later in the evening, the audience were given song sheets and joined in with one of the pieces. Audience participation was the norm throughout the night and the musicians answered many questions including why the Greek bazooki Henry was playing was an effective substitute for the Persian tar. We were also treated to classical Persian poetry from Habib, who read ghazals from Hafez, the medieval Persian poet from the 14th Century. Finally, Hadi rounded off the night with modern Afghan poems, accompanied by Henry’s soft booziki. A video of Hadi’s rousing poetry can be found on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AfghanCentralAsian/


The discussion on well-being focussed on the question “What are the most pressing well-being issues facing your community?”. Key points included difficulties communicating with the younger generation, barriers to feeling part of British society such as a lack of language ability and a culture clash, and jealousy between different members of the community. It was emphasised that there can be strong stigma around the term ‘mental health’. Topics raised in the discussion clearly provoked thought; towards the end of the night one audience member mentioned how people from Afghanistan do engage with mental health issues, however, the way it is spoken about is not always as direct and medicalised as it might be in Western cultures.


Overall, it was an enjoyable night which we at the ACAA hope to build on in the coming months. We are planning more cultural events around our Persian heritage as well as further discussions about well-being in the community. Once the ACAA has a good sense of the well-being priorities of people from Afghanistan living in London, we plan to begin a research project in collaboration with Sohail and King’s College University. We not only want to listen to people’s concerns but act to address some of the issues they raise. If you would like to contribute to our future events either as an organiser, poet or musician we’d love to hear from you. Similarly, if you are interested in supporting our work around mental health please get in touch.

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