VOICE OF THE SPEECHLESS: TOUCHING VIDEO AND SONG, LONELY TOGETHER, SHINES THE SPOTLIGHT ON FAMILIES AND CHILDREN LIVING WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
As lockdown restrictions are slowly being relaxed locally and abroad, people are grappling with the concept of ‘the new normal’.
A heartfelt new song by South African artist (US based), Ziya shines the spotlight on this, but from the perspective of the families of children with special needs.
Have you ever thought about how lonely life is for these families? Have you ever thought about the fact that lockdown is nothing “new” to them, that they face a constant state of lockdown?
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Ziya, a South African musician, composer, songwriter and co-founder of the Brain Child Fund, currently lives in Philadelphia in the USA, with her husband – Hannes – and their four children. The idea for the track was inspired by a conversation she had with a mother in the Brain Child Fund network.
“I asked how they were doing during lockdown. Her response was that if this was lockdown, they were permanently in it. Their son has compromised immunity, which essentially means that they cannot go anywhere as he is very fragile,” explains the musician, who herself has four children, three of whom have special needs.
“The song focuses on how people often feel lonely, even when they aren’t in lockdown. It is about how we are all essentially the same,” says the singer-songwriter. “During lockdown we were all in the same situation – we were lonely together. The forced lockdown highlighted our need for connection and our desire to love and be loved.”
“The essence of the song is that while COVID-19 created a ‘new normal’, one where people felt trapped and isolated, that is often the reality for special needs individuals who feel trapped in their bodies. To them it’s just another day. These incredible souls, these amazing people with thoughts and dreams, feel as trapped in their own bodies as we felt during lockdown.”
LONELY TOGETHER forms part of a project called Voice of the Speechless (VOS), which marries the singer’s passion for music with her heart for the special needs community. VOS is an initiative of the Brain Child Fund, a non-profit organization serving special needs families through education, support, and by raising awareness. It was co-founded by Ziya in 2009.
“VOS is ultimately a social awareness project that uses edutainment to raise awareness and to destigmatize nonverbal special needs individuals using music and videos,” explains Ziya. The project is truly pioneering – it records special needs children’s sounds and environments, documents parts of their journey, and captures their stories in songs and music videos. The aim is to offer people a glimpse into the worlds of individuals with special needs from various backgrounds and countries.
LONELY TOGETHER is the first track in a series the artist is creating as part of a visual album – a concept where a video accompanies each song – in collaboration with families and other artists around the world. The culmination of the project will be the creation of a short documentary.
Ziya was born in Welkom and grew up in Pretoria. She describes herself as an extroverted introvert who enjoys spending time with people, joking around and spending time outdoors just as much as being alone in her recording studio. “I am an over thinker who is not big on small talk. A red wine, rather than a white wine personality and someone who experiences emotion intensely, has lots of empathy with others and wants to touch lives,” she shares about herself.
Three of her four children have special needs and since the first diagnosis, they have been tirelessly searching for solutions to their problem. This not only inspired them to create the Brain Child Fund, but is also the reason why they decided to move to the USA. “We found an organization in Philadelphia who offered a home based program for our children. Within four months, we achieved better results than with any other conventional treatment we have tried. Our children reached milestones that we never thought were possible. That is why we made the decision to relocate to the USA – not only for our own family’s sake, but also to help others. We have been living in the USA off and on for seven years,” the singer explains.
U2 is credited as one of her biggest musical inspirations and she also admires the work of musicians like Sting, Peter Gabriel, Imogen Heap and Björk. The singer – who has been classically trained – also enjoys Alternative, Electronica, Indie, Jazz and Rock music.
If she had to choose a different career, she would have liked to be a spy or special agent who is on a mission to save someone in distress. “I have always cared about the underdog, the vulnerable and the broken… maybe because I am able to see my own brokenness in others,” says the artist.
Perhaps her need to protect the vulnerable stems from the fact that she could not prevent her daughter from having a stroke at thirteen months.
Ziya believes in putting herself in other people’s shoes to understand the situation they are in. She has many plans and dreams for the future, but for now she is focussing on her latest passion project and on changing the lives of special needs children and their families, one song at a time.
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