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Star Interviews

 SYRENE ARTISTE

What is your full name?

Syrene is my stage name which is inspired by my daughter’s second name Sireen and my marvel comic alter ego Syren.

Where were you born?

The city of Nottingham

When did you first want to become a singer?

I can’t remember when I wanted to become a singer.  I have always been a singer and a dancer for as long as I can remember.  It was later on in life that I thought of sharing it with the rest of the world.

Who was your inspiration?

My father has been and always will be my biggest inspiration. He has simply taught me to go for it. Whatever the dream or whatever the passion regardless of success. Just go for it

When did you get your first break?

My first ever break was with Amarjit Sidhu who by chance was hosting the Asian Mela at the NEC in Birmingham.  This was way back in the day and I was supposed to perform as part of a girl group called ‘Mischief’ but our manager at the time, brought the wrong cd and we couldn’t perform. However, my mother boldly went where no mother has gone before. She went right up to Mr Sidhu and stated as a matter of fact that her daughter can sing whatever Bollywood song he had at his disposal. I sang my heart out and the rest, as they say, is history.

How difficult or easy has it been for you as a British born Pakistani female trying to make it in the music industry mainly dominated by males?

This is the bit where I am going to have a little rant. The problem I see with the British Asian industry is that there is no industry. An industry is something that is regulated and currently there is no regulatory body to ensure that people are not taken advantage of. I feel there has to be a governing body to protect artistes who are trying to succeed.  Not only female artists but male artists alike. Many a time I have had my gut wrenched out and my heart broken from lack of support in this so called industry where hardworking artists are taken advantage of and people who have made it, through whatever reason, are not willing to provide and create a platform for other artists. I have spent a lot of money to fulfil my dream but the money is not well spent by the people you give it to. In the British Asian industry it is the motto of ‘get as much money as you can out of the artist’ but do as little as possible, which is a shame but it is true and I defy anyone who says otherwise.  I am sure there are some bonafide artists out there but the industry is terrible here and hence, why so many artists are looking at other countries to pursue their dream. That is exactly what I have done.  I work with the well-known Dutch producer Gumnaam, on his Riddimand Culture Label. Now that is one dude who has been solid and consistent since I started working with him last year. He has a wonderful work ethic very much like my own and a few people could really learn from that.  It is a real pleasure working with him and one thing is for certain that I just can’t stop singing and I probably will never stop. Rant over!

How many albums have you released and what can we look forward to in the future?

I have released one single “Main Hoon Deewani” which is currently available on iTunes. The second single will be available once I can find out when my current producer has the time to call me and give me some studio time. The album is pretty much ready but until I can get the second single out, it would be a bit pointless to release the album. So for now everything is on hold until I have a new schedule… so watch this space. However, if you are a genuine producer who hates timewasters as much as I do, then hit me up on Facebook – Syrene Artist, or on twitter @sonic_syrene. Meanwhile, I am currently having lots of success working with Gumnaam. It is a great mix of heavy beats, almost dubstep, but with a great twist. Curious? Check out my sound cloud.

How do you balance family life and work life?

I am currently balancing family life and 2 kids with my own Business Development Consultancy as well as working with Gumnaam. I guess I just take each day at a time. My husband is very supportive and loves the fact that I am willing and determined to pursue my dreams. I am a bit of a go getter as most of my friends and family are well aware. Stubborn too! It’s the aspiration to be successful that drives me the most.  I SHALL SUCCEED!!

What advice do you give to aspiring singers?

Practice, practice and more practice. Never ever give up your dream because nobody can take your talent away from you and only you can bring yourself down. If you don’t succeed the first time, just pick yourself up and dust yourself down as nobody in this industry will do that for you. If one way doesn’t work then try another avenue. Who knows, that might be the one that works for you. Much love to all Urban Echo readers!

Quick fire round…

Most precious in your life?

My family

Favourite holiday destination?

Malaysia

Night or day?

Night

Hollywood or Bollywood?

Bollywood

Usher or Justin Timberlake?

If it is looks, then neither. If talent, then… ummm, I guess Usher pips it to the post because I can’t stand falsettos.

Aishwarya Rai or Angelina Jolie?

Urggghhhh really?

Dream car?

Mercedes McLaren

Football or cricket?

Both

Favourite food?

Any cuisine. I love food cooking it and eating it

Eastenders or Coronation Street?

[indignantly] urgggh television? I have no time for television young man!

THE FACE OF THE NEW WAVE OF PAKISTANI CINEMA

The Urban Echo caught up with actress Yamina Peerzada who talks about her future plans on working in England, the perception of women in Pakistani cinema and the famous surname she carries.

What is your full name? Yamina Peerzada

What is your occupation? Actress

Tell us a bit about the Rafi Peer Theatre Company? In 1974, my father Saadaan Peerzada and his brothers established Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. The company was named to honor the memory of their late father Rafi Peer a playwright, radio artiste and actor. Over the last 40 years it has become Pakistan’s largest arts organization. Film, music, dance, drama and puppetry have been showcased in the twenty-five International Festivals held under the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop banner, providing audiences the chance to appreciate local as well as international talent. Since 1992, its festivals have hosted up to 8,000 foreign artists from over seventy-six countries. RPTW established Pakistan’s first ever Museum of Puppetry. It also runs a cultural complex that serves as a platform for artists from all over the country.

What is your role within the company? My father Saadaan Peerzada and sister Alena Peerzada run the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop and Peer Events. I am only involved in RPTW’s Theatre Productions and performance-oriented projects.

Where were you born? Lahore, Pakistan.

You have a very famous surname. Has that been a hindrance or a help? Generally people tend to think that if you come from a family of artists it’s easier for you to make your place but in reality it is very difficult to create your own niche when you are overshadowed by towering personalities and there is a lot of expectation from you. A lot of girls who enter the television or film industry come through modeling. I feel it’s easier for them since the audience has nothing to compare them to. However had I not been born in a family of artists and grown up in such an atmosphere I might have not been inclined towards the arts so in that way it’s helped me since my love for theatre, arts and literature is because of my family.

When did you decide to pursue a career in acting? I did my first professional theatre play at the age of nine and it is then that I decided that I want to do this for the rest of my life. However when I got accepted for my Masters in Screen Acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, (London) I believed that I could do it.

Living in Lahore, as a working actress how do you feel women in this field are generally perceived by the masses?I think the perception towards actresses is slowly changing as more educated people have entered this field. However, I do feel our society is still quite conservative. There is too much debate on the ‘character choices’ and ‘clothes’ of actresses, and the expectation of them to fit in one standard ‘socially acceptable’ mould is quite high. I think this can be quite stifling for not only an actress or artist but also a person in general. I also feel this makes one less daring and limited in the choices and kind of roles one can play without being completely scrutinized.

Pakistani cinema is on the rise with a recent spate of successful films. How do you feel Pakistani cinema is changing and the future for the industry? Due to easy access of other channels, Turkish television shows on our local cable and Bollywood films showcasing in our cinema halls has increased the demand for good quality work. Also with newer technology and the introduction of HD cameras, the film industry has been revolutionized. However due to lack of investment from the private sector the current trend our films is through funding. This has made out films more propaganda an agenda based rather than a creative art form.

What is the biggest challenge facing Pakistani cinema today? One of the biggest reasons for the failure of the Pakistani film industry would be the lack of investment. People have lost the desire to invest in Pakistani films as they have suffered losses due to lack of cinema halls and screens.

Also we need film schools, and training institutes for the performing arts. We have television directors and ad filmmakers making a shift to the Big Screen, however there is still a dearth of scriptwriters, art directors, technicians, sound engineers, choreographers, action directors, etc.

What is your message to other aspiring actors/actresses? There’s no one path to take and every actor will find their own way. This industry is full of opinions and one shouldn’t listen to any one who tells you that there is only one way to do it. Don’t follow the herd. ‘Believe in yourself, your talent and find your own way.’

Name one filmmaker you would like to work with (international). Imtiaz Ali and Deepa Mehta.

Your inspiration? Nature, Books, Movies, Performances, Art and People.

There are many south Asians who are now working in the Western film industries. Directors such as Gurinder Chadha, Mira Nair and Asif Kapadia have always kept an eye on talent from the Asian sub-continent. Are there any plans to act in the UK?Definitely, I have always wanted to work in the western film industries as you get to learn so much considering they have a more advanced film industry. Since my training as an actor is from RCSSD I am quite comfortable working in the UK. One of the things that I love about acting is working with different people and exploring different cultures as I feel it helps one grow as a person and therefore as an actor. And I have been fortunate enough to work with many directors from different cultures, e.g. when I performed a one woman show titled “Dance without Movement” for 3 weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and recently I worked with a Danish director when I performed “The Border” at the April Fest in Holstebro, which is the largest Children’s Theatre festival in the world.

QUICK FIRE ROUND…

London or Lahore? London.

Amitabh Bachchan or Denzel Washington? Amitabh Bachchan.

Bollywood or Hollywood or Lollywood? Growing up Bollywood has influenced me the most as an actor. But I would love to work in Hollywood, Bollywood and Lollywood as long as I’m part of stories that touch hearts, connect with people, entertain people, and hopefully be part of meaningful cinema.

Cats or dogs? I’m not a Pet Person.

Football or Cricket? Cricket.

Lamb Masala or Fish and Chips? Lamb Masala. When it comes to food I’m a complete “Desi girl”.

Mercedes or BMW? BMW

Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren? Meryl Streep.

Summer or Winter? Summer in London and Winter in Lahore

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