Celebrating Role Models – Day 19

Soprano, SAFRA DEEN

A question that many people have always asked me and continue to do so to this day, is “ how does a Sri Lankan muslim girl from a conservative background continue to sing?”. Though it was a question I usually brushed off with a laugh when I was a teenager, today I think deeply about it. I can’t think of the ideal answer because my parents are in fact very conservative and live within the parameters of general Islamic teachings. However, the liberalism always stemmed through the openness to different values inculcated in me as a toddler. I’m yet to figure out the answer but I guess time will always tell me – why and how?

Performing has always been my passion. Although I was never a star as a child, I enjoyed every minute singing in the back row during my earliest performances. It was not until the age of 11,when I first tried my luck at an inter house solo singing competition at my alma mater Bishop’s College, that realized I really wanted to excel in singing. Though I never ended up the winner at that competition, it propelled me into the beautiful world of solo singing. I then began my training in classical singing and brought into my life, my inspiration and mentor Ms.Ruwani Seimon. This amazing chapter of my life sadly ended soon when she lost her short battle against cancer. Determined to finish what Ms. Ruwani and I began together, I took up the challenge and worked tirelessly completing all my singing exams and I went on to receive the ultimate honour of becoming a Fellow of the Trinity College of Music London in Voice Performance at the age of 19.

Looking back at my life as a soloist I have had the privilege of winning a number of awards, performing at many major events and even meeting greats like A.R Rahman which were far beyond my expectations. None of it came easy though, especially in a field which involves favouritism, prejudice and subjective opinions. However, I have learned that if you truly believe in yourself, nothing and no one can stand in the way of achieving your dreams.

Instead of using my talents to simply become another Prima Donna, I have focused more on working with children and young adults from diverse backgrounds, including the differently abled and teaching the magic of music. As a medium of communication, singing is like no other. It brings out the best in people and spreads joy and a sense of togetherness which is indescribable.

Having completed my degree in Law from the University of London I am currently at the early stages of my legal career, something I pursue in conjunction with my singing. Juggling two different interests have moulded my spirit to accept challenges I would have passed off as impossible before and it has taught me to view life with an attitude that says never give up. I have many more hills to climb and challenges to face as I am only 23, but I know I have all the strength I need to get there. It lies in my family, in my friends but most importantly within me.

Photograph by Gerald Pereira

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