Her first big influence was the famous Lebanese singer Fairuz who she regularly listened to at home. As a teenager, she learnt classical piano and played flute and saxophone in orchestras. She later became interested in folk and protest music and taught herself guitar so she would be able to perform solo in the clubs. Darwish began to write her own songs and joined several bands as a keyboard player aswell as performing solo in small acoustic clubs. Working as a postwoman at the time, she grew tired of the late nights and early mornings and also frustrated by the music scene.
She decided to save up and try to realise her dream of travelling around the Mediterranean.The plan came off and Darwish lived for a short while in Crete and Turkey, immediately falling in love with the local music. She returned to England with a few CD's in her bag and a new dream of one day being able to sing some of the new songs she had heard on her travels. A few years later, she applied to the London University School of Oriental and African Studies planning to study Arabic and Middle Eastern history. However, fate took a hand and when she saw Turkish language was also available she decided to apply for that as well. Having been accepted for both courses, Darwish decided to follow her dream and enrolled on the course for Turkish Language and Literature with Middle Eastern History. Living in London provided the opportunity to hang out in the Turkish and Kurdish music cafés of Hackney and once again be immersed in the music she loved.
Her biggest passion was for the types of music known in Turkey as halk müziği and özgün müziği and Dalston in North East London was full of bars and community centres playing just this kind of music. Still playing as a solo performer in the acoustic cafes of London, Paula began to add a few Turkish songs to the repertoire and found British audiences receptive to the beautiful melodies of Anatolian folk. During her third college year, Darwish studied at the Bosphorous University in Istanbul, and played some gigs in Istanbul and Izmir. On her return to London, she became a well known figure playing on the Turkish and Kurdish music scene of North London.
After gaining a first class degree in Turkish, she returned to Istanbul with the intention of getting a job and starting a new band. Whilst musical opportunities were many, unable to earn enough money to survive, she was forced to return to England and start again. Not wishing to be pigeon holed by UK audiences as solely a "world music" act, she created The Country & Eastern band in Manchester UK ,in 2002 with the idea of fusing musical styles to make Eastern music more acceptable to general UK audiences. The plan worked and together with her band she has been a regular performer on the UK music scene since then. Darwish was signed to Berlin label Oriental Media in 2005 and released the EP “Urfa Folk Song”.
She performed every month for five years at Manchester’s Iguana Bar before stopping to concentrate on recording the album “Do what you love” in 2008. The album was released on her own label “Purple Sheep Records in 2009”. The EP “3 Kurdish songs” was released in 2011 and ‘3 Anatolian Songs’ in 2012. She has performed at Musicport, the UK’s second biggest world music festival, and toured the UK in 2009 and 2010. Footage of live gigs posted on the internet in recent years brought renewed attention from Turkey and Darwish began to refocus more on her original passion of traditional Turkish and Kurdish folk.
In 2010 Darwish and the band were the subject of a TV documentary shown on Turkish TV station TRT, called Farklı Kültür Aynı Müzik. Darwish toured Turkey in 2010 and 2011 and is returning for her longest tour to date in 2012. Darwish is respected for her contribution to the world of global fusion as well as her work in the more traditional arena of Anatolian folk music. She cites her main inspirations as: Selda Bağcan,Aşık Mahsuni Şerif,Ilkay Akkaya,Ciwan Haco,Yeni Turku,Şivan Perwer, Kızılırmak, Grup Yorum, Fairuz, Haris Alexiou, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Emmy Lou Harris Discography - Paula Darwish- Urfa Folk Song" (2006) - Paula Darwish & The Country and Eastern Band - Do What You Love" (2008) - Paula Darwish 3 Songs In Kurdish - (2011) - Paula Darwish - 3 Anadolu Ezgisi (2012) Statement from the artist 2006 >>The Country & Eastern project is not just about my own music but also about bringing the fantastic music I heard in Turkey to a wider audience.
When we play in England most of the audience have never heard this music before but are immediately captivated by it and want to hear more. Traditionally this sort of music only gets aired in the UK in arts centres and minority interest venues but, over the past years, I feel I have proved it has a wider audience. Our audiences are not reverential music buffs but ordinary people out for a drink and a quality evening. I have also had numerous emails from across Europe from people wanting to hear more of the music. I have spent some time talking to record companies in Istanbul & England about the project and have experienced a certain amount of scepticism about an English speaking audience being receptive to this music.
Doubters should come to the gigs and see for themselves. The UK music market is notoriously narrow compared to the rest of Northern Europe and I would love to play a part in changing that, both for the sake of the artists who deserve to be heard here and for the sake of UK music listeners who deserve to hear high quality music from non English speaking countries. I work closely with other bands, like Troia Nova, who also combine music from different countries and bring it to new audiences. I use the expression ‘country and eastern’ because it has no ethnic, religious or nationalistic connotations and reflects the diversity of the world we live in. Modern communication has meant we are all now influenced by many different cultures and I like to celebrate the positiveness of this in my music..
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