The pull of the strings, Luton to Islamabad.
It is hot in Islamabad, but when it rains, it rains a lot. There are parathas for breakfast, though also toast. Izzat Shah from Luton is missing England, its weather and its food.
We were touched to learn that when Izzat found herself locked down on a family visit, together with her parents and twin brother Jafar, she had been continuing her weekly violin lessons from her teacher in Luton via Zoom.
Izzat, nine, is a pupil at Bramingham Primary School in Luton, part of a diverse community. She was born in the UK: her grandfather was in the British Army and her mother was born in Scotland and settled in Luton when she was ten. Izzat’s father is from the Saraiki region of Pakistan, so Izzat is now third generation, and the first to be learning to play the violin. Her mother has always loved the violin and is happy that Izzat is learning; she was also interested to discover that learning to play the violin improves confidence levels and mathematical skills too.
Izzat has been playing for two years. More than one difficulty had to be overcome in order for her lessons to continue from Islamabad: if there were connectivity issues on Zoom, WhatsApp was used as a back-up to send recordings – although there is often competition from the noise of fans; she had also outgrown her previous instrument during this period, and so her father had to find her a full-size violin from a music store in Islamabad.
She has her routine: her regular violin practice is preceded by online maths and English; and there are other things to occupy her – her cousin Rida’s cat has recently had three kittens, and she helps to look after them. The kittens, however, have to be kept on a separate floor, away from Jafar’s chick (the survivor from a number brought home – the ones that had been coloured did not survive). Jafar plays the drums, and although they did try to play together to see if it might work, they decided against it.
Izzat likes listening to music – she mentioned Mozart; but she and her family also enjoy music from the region – qawwali, music from the Coke Studios, Sufi music and ghazals. Perhaps the unexpected extended stay will help her keep in touch, not just with her gran, uncles, aunts and cousins, but also with this musical culture.
We are sorry to hear that her teacher, Vabiz Parks, has herself now been laid low by the virus. We wish her a speedy recovery and hope that she can soon be reunited with her pupils.
Izzat would like to continue with the violin. All the best, Izzat, continue to play and enjoy music, wherever you find yourself!