Chance to make sweet soul music

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Fifers are being encouraged to warm up their vocals chords as the Got Soul Choir rolls into the region.

Born out of a love of soul music and a passion to serve her community and make a difference, Maryam Ghaffari founded the choir in Edinburgh in 2012.

“I was going through a tough time and was feeling pretty lonely,” Maryam explained.

“I found the idea of joining any old social group really unappealing.

“I wanted to do something so that similar people to me – with a love for soul music – could get together and have fun. You see, soul music, for me, personally, is a bit like a light switch – you flick it and instantly the light comes on.

“Also, not having had any children, I wanted to leave something behind.

“It was quite a soul-searching period for me.

“I wanted to get involved with some charity work but not as a one-time gig – like parachuting out of a plane or something like that.

“So once the choir was born, I knew that was it; that it should become a charity with the main purpose of bringing people together, out of loneliness and isolation.”

In the last six years, the choir has run hundreds of workshops, performed in some of the country’s most prestigious music venues and expanded to Glasgow and Dundee.

And its founder is delighted with its success story so far.

“To be honest, I really didn’t start with a particular expectation,” Maryam said.

“All I knew was that I was going to give the choir everything I had.

“But I casually asked the oracle, our administrative co-ordinator Lisa Towers, if she was able to tell me how many gigs we’ve done so far.

“Give me a minute, she said, which we’ve all come to know as she’s going to give me this information broken down to the last decimal point!

“Within minutes she came back with this staggering reply: “We have done – are you ready for this? – 69 medium to large scale gigs, with our first concert in December 2012 being staged in a small, 200 capacity church hall.

“I was stunned because when you’re in the throes of doing something you kind of lose track.

“I guess when you make it your endeavour to live life as a builder, working for The Architect, the answer would be who knew?

“We’re still giving it everything we’ve got and it’s exciting so watch this space!

The choir is hosting a workshop series until May in Dunfermline and is keen for as many people as possible to get involved.

And Maryam assured us that participants don’t need to be of the calibre of Aretha Franklin or James Brown to join in the fun!

“Absolutely no experience is required and there’s no need to read sheet music,” she said. “The only requirement is to bring your biggest smile and a bottle of water because singing is thirsty work!

“We are so so so excited to be starting the Fife’s Got Soul choir.

“To anyone who would like to have a go but feels a wee bit nervous I would say don’t hesitate, give it a go!

“You really have nothing to lose and, remember, we all feel a bit nervous trying something new.

“So many people are told they can’t sing or to ‘just mime dear’ so they don’t think they have a voice.

“We all have what it takes to sing. Singing in a Got Soul choir is about being yourself, letting go and having fun!”

What else can you expect from a Got Soul Choir workshops?

“A very warm, soulful welcome that’s for sure,” Maryam continued.

“Our workshops are raucous, passionate, fun, energetic and exciting but, at the same time, it is almost impossible to nail it down with a few words – you really have to experience it.

“Simply put, the session will be a soul shakin’, pulse racin’, foot stompin’ celebration of soul music from artists such as Aretha Frankilin, Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, to name just a few.”

The spring term ends with a finale concert with each choir performing alongside some famous faces on the soul music scene.

“This spring term, the special guest who will join our choirs at the grand finale concert is Sharleen Hector from Basement Jaxx,” said Maryam.

“There will also be a live eight-piece funk band with some of the country’s most experienced, respected and saught after musicians.

“Our concerts are truly family-oriented occasions, where all members of the family – from grandparents to grandchildren – can join in the singing, dancing and having fun together.

“As a registered Scottish charity we are particularly proud to say that at all our concerts we invite another charity to come along and fund-raise too.

“To date we have helped numerous other charities in this way, including Scottish Autism, Children’s Hospices Across Scotland and Maggie’s to raise thousands of pounds.

“We are delighted that the benefits of Got Soul are far wider reaching than simply the communities we all perform in.”

The Fife workshops run at Dunfermline Carnegie Hall until May 28.

For more details, visit www.gotsoul.org.uk.