Isolation Drills: Farah Siraj

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Siraj: I was supposed to be on tour for most of this year and traveling a lot, but all of my concerts were either postponed or canceled. It was heartbreaking. Being onstage is one of my biggest joys in life.

2020 was supposed to be the year I traveled the most, with concerts in Europe, the Middle East, Singapore and South Korea, and the U.S., and it turned out 2020 would be the longest time I ever spent in one place!

Early this year I had moved to New York for a few months and was getting ready to record my album with my bandmates in March. With everything that was going on, the studio closed and we were unable to record.

Shortly after I headed back to my home in Philly, and I have been here since, working on music in my home studio. I did eventually get to go back to New York and finish recording my album, though.

For the first month of quarantine, I was completely frozen. Stuck in a state of disbelief at what was happening and worrying about my family, who are oceans away. I slowly started finding ways to center myself and accept the reality of what was happening instead of resisting it. It wasn’t easy!

I’m a very social person and love being around people, so it was particularly challenging to find myself isolated, both professionally and personally. My agent was encouraging me to do livestream concerts for my fans, so I took her up on it and started performing virtually. To my surprise, I loved it!

I loved being able to interact with fans in real time, and to be able to perform for them wherever they are in the world. It was fascinating to have people tune in from Jordan, Spain, India, Argentina, Australia and the U.S. at the same time. This could never happen in “real life”!

Since then, I’ve been livestreaming regularly, and have been booked by theaters and festivals to give virtual concerts, which I’ve been grateful for. Of course, I can’t wait to be performing in person again—there’s nothing like!—but in the meantime, this has been a wonderful way to stay connected with my fans and engage with them in a meaningful way. 

Like so many musicians, it’s been strange doing almost everything from home when you’re used to the exact opposite. There are times where I struggle to keep myself motivated, but I feel that is something many people are going through as well right now. It has helped me to keep my hands full.

I’ve been keeping myself busy with musical collaborations, upcoming music videos and working on my upcoming album, to be released in 2021. This challenged me to step up my game in home-studio recording and video recording/editing.

In my free time, I’ve been taking long walks, reading, dancing, taking classes on music production, cooking vegan food and hanging out with my cat, Tango, who is obsessed with sitting outside in his chair. Yes, he has his own chair, and he is the boss of me. 

I’ve also taken time to reflect on issues that are important to me, especially social justice, refugee rights and animal rights, and reflect on what I can do on an individual level, both professionally and personally. I’m grateful to have had opportunities to engage in fundraising for nonprofits I care about as well as engage in vegan educational programs such Peace Advocacy Network’s Vegan Pledge Program.

My hope is that the injustices that have been highlighted by this pandemic will bring about the change we need, and will bring us to a higher collective consciousness and commitment to create a better future for all.