She touches the piano and it springs to life! Just like how a seasoned actor takes a play to the next level; so can a musician find greater depths in a composition straight from the heart. Nadia Dandachi, the 22-year-old Saudi pianist shares with Yasmeen Maqbool of her passion for music and medicine
Hearing Nadia at the keys sounds like Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice of 1972. She hears every gesture, every clever harmonic turn, translating each of her emotions and re-contextualizing it in such a way, that it seems new again. “Love, heartbreak, passion, ambition, fear, sadness, desperation, anger, confusion, losing and finding myself once again are a few emotions that find expression in my music.” Being an arduous advocate for self-expression, Nadia doesn’t hesitate to reiterate that music and art are “unlimited experiences”. Her flawless sense of style incorporating its emotional depth vouches for that.
IN THE MAKING
“I first learned to play the piano by taking private lessons at home with a tutor for a couple of years, and then continued on my own because there was no one to take me to the next level.” However, she did not let that stop her and worked on to improve and learn the nuances herself. Trying her nimble fingers first at the keys when six, Nadia admits that the child in her still drives her to want to achieve more. “I don’t deliberately think about the kind of music I want to create. All I do is sit at my piano… and let the music flow from my fingers to the keys.”
When asked who in essence Nadia Dandachi is, she immediately reverts: “I’m just a young woman with dreams too big to squeeze into one lifetime.” You thus find her studying medicine and now in her 5th year of university at King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah.
“I’ve been playing for about 16 years, and most of the covers I play are learnt by ear. She has been captivating a global online audience for nearly six years from her piano seat at her family home in Jeddah. Her fan following numbers to 17.6K Followers and 12.4K Likes on Twitter @NadiaNiddy and 10,323 subscribers and 682,145 views on YouTube (at the time of publication). “My music is uploaded and available on both my Youtube and Soundcloud accounts.”
DARE TO DREAM
Nadia insists that, “Self-expression isn’t tabooed in Saudi Arabia. People just don’t really dare because they ‘think’ they won’t find the support they need, but I’ve received so much love and support from all my local fans.”
Besides she believes that no one should fear what the society might think. “Do what you love, what makes you happy and what makes you ‘you’. Just enjoy indulging in what you are good at regardless of what people might say or do. Nothing can stop you but yourself.”
Nadia explains, “Unfortunately, most information on the media portrays Saudi women as dependent, close-minded, and suppressed, who have no rights or will of their own.” She strongly disagrees. “There is so much about Saudi women that people don’t know. Many are extremely talented, smart, and open-minded. They enjoy life to the fullest, and face life with a smile. There are women fashion designers, poets, doctors, engineers and lawyers, who have created a niche in the Saudi society. Women are gaining more rights and freedom with time in Saudia, and I know that, someday, they will prove themselves to the world!”
However, Nadia does rue over the lack of opportunity to share her talent in her country. “Playing music in public is not quite acceptable here other than at privately hosted events. But the UAE is where I showcase myself and my contribution to music.”
The music scene in Jeddah is beginning to thrive and needs to diversify, according to Nadia. “More than three- uarters of the music scene here is focused only on rap and DJ-ing. In order for more musical genres to develop, I believe, we need musical guidance and more encouragement.”
Nadia is inspired by strong emotions and thus every piece has its own story or meaning. Says the talented pianist, “The music I play on the black and white keys is my voice. I often compose after being affected by recent happenings in my life, or by events taking place around the world, (for example – her composition dedicated to Syria).
She understands that music is a way to ‘hear’ feelings and ‘heal’ the soul. “It has many beneficial, scientifically proven and positive effects on education in children as well.”
Nadia is a huge fan of Alaa Wardi, the Iranian-Saudi YouTube A Cappella artist, mostly popular in the Middle East region, but also in India and Turkey. “Internationally, I follow many great musicians, but to list them, my favourite Youtube artists are: The American violinist, dancer, performance artist, singer and composer – Lindsey Stirling and the amazing Ukrainian pianist – Viktoriya Yermolyeva, more popularly knows as “vkgoeswild”.
She advises all the young girls and boys, “Know and decide what you want from life, create opportunities, plan and work towards it by exploiting your talent. Follow your heart and just feel confident with what you do!”