Born in Mogadishu, Siham and Iman Hashi, Somali-Canadian sisters known on the internet and on stage as the group "Faarrow" tell us boldly, that they are set to rule the world. Now based in Los Angeles, Faarrow became the first Somali females to land a major label U.S. record deal. Through their online merchandising, and their formal association with the United Nations, the girls consistently contribute to the lives of Somali families based in the world’s largest refugee camp, in Kenya. ASM Team met up with Faarrow to learn more about these spunky free-spirited personalities on track to take the world by storm.
ASM - Tell us about yourselves, your lineage and family background. Where are you from originally?
FW - We were born in Somalia in East Africa. We moved to Toronto, Canada as refugees at ages four and five; and basically grew up there.
ASM - What was life like as refugees? Do you remember it?
FW - You know, we have amazing parents. We did not realize what the word refugee meant until we got older and heard fellow Somali students or people mention it. Our parents did their best to shelter us from that. In addition, Canada is quite a peaceful country to grow up in so we did not realize we were taking refuge. It did not sink in until later on with stories we heard from others; and of course news from the media also played a role in discovering who we were living in Canada due to the unfortunate and negative stories about our country.
ASM - What were your initial impressions about your homeland?
FW - Our mom was a diplomat working for the Somalia Embassy; and so she told us a lot of amazing stories about what our country was like before the war broke out. However, in contrast, living in North America, all we heard of and saw depicted through the media about Somalia was the devastation and war. All we choose to hold on to is the beauty and stories of our country before the war; with hope that things will change from where they are now. We were young when we left; and would go further to say we were of the lucky ones to have been given asylum when the war broke out.
“…All we know and we choose to hold on to is the beauty and stories of our country before the war; with hope that things will change from where they are now…”
ASM - Do you feel that any of Somalia makes it into your music, your style or your image? Do any of the stories your parents told you about beauty of life before the war has anything to do with what you are doing today?
FW - Yes they do. Aside from our advocacy with the United Nations for Somalia, we also have Wish Creatively, a jewelry line we make and sell with all proceeds going towards our projects helping marginalized women in third world countries, starting with our country Somalia. With regards to our music, there are African undertones and the rhythm always in them. We have incorporated our language in our songs as well.
ASM - Where does your group name Faarrow come from?
FW - Pronounced like the word Pharaoh, Faarrow is a combination of both of our Arabic names. Iman means Faith and Sihem means Arrow. So combining both names together resulted in our group name.
ASM - How would you describe your personal esthetic? What is it connected to? Where does it come from? Is there something original about it?
FW - We come at our music and almost everything from our own perspective. We call our genre of Music World Pop because it is a fusion of both of our worlds; of our African Heritage and Culture with that of the Western world. It also shows in our style that there is a fusion.
ASM - When did you start making music?
FW - We always sang for fun but growing up we never thought it would be something we would ever get into because of the conservative mind set of our community for it was not considered a serious career. So professionally, we did not give it a second thought to actually pursue it but we finally fell in love with it and decided to follow our passion and make a career out of it.
ASM - You have a lot of fanfare and organic popularity growth. What would you attribute that to? Would it be due to the community you are part of and their readiness to hear your sound?
FW - It was a big deal getting positive feedback. A lot of our popularity initially came from our community because we were the first girls from Somalia to get a major American record deal. Girls our age with the same dreams never thought this would ever be possible for them let alone for us. It made people broaden their horizons because we have broadened ours and we have found some success. However, our popularity also got some negative feedback by those who did not understand why we chose the path we did.
We are doing everything independently because we have already done the major label route and it was not what we had expected. So we are doing the work ourselves now and as we gain traction, we will see what’s next for us.
ASM - You are clearly influencing and inspiring a wave of both girls and boys. Who are your inspirations?
FW - We grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston. From our country, Sada Ali is a favorite artist we listened to as we learned to sing. And the group the Spice Girls is also an influence. They had an energy that we had not seen before with other female music group. So we loved and can relate to that. ASM: Tell us about your song ‘Rule The World.’ What brought about the concept behind the making of the music video? FW: We chose that as our first single because we love the energy, rhythms and message to in the song. We shot the first scene down at Santee Alley in Downtown Los Angeles, California because it reminded us of back home in Somalia. In addition, we wanted to shoot a video that showcased our fun and free spirited personalities; hence we loved the idea of the bike ride scenes rather than beauty glamour shots. The end result was an amazing video that we are both proud of and our fans enjoy.
“…our socially conscious jewelry line called Wish Creatively, which stands for Women International Selling Hope aims to assist women and girls in Africa who are in need of things that we generally take for granted…”
ASM - What are some of the messages in your work; and what messages do you hope to get out to people?
FW - In a couple of our songs, we sing about where we come from. In a song called ‘One,’ produced by DJ Khalil, our message was to emphasis that instead of waiting around, each one of us can be that one person to take that step in making a difference in the world. Our over all message is letting people know that no matter what obstacles they may face, they can overcome anything.
ASM - Speaking of overcoming obstacles, tell us about some of the humanitarian work you are involved in?
FW - One project we are working on is our socially conscious jewelry line called Wish Creatively, which stands for Women International Selling Hope. Wish aims to assist women and girls in Africa who are in need of things that we generally take for granted. For example, through our research, we found out that young girls at refugee camps have a difficult time attending school for a week during their menstrual cycles due to the inaccessibility to sanitary pads. So we are stepping in to assist these girls and women with the resources to make reusable sanitary napkins; thereby creating sustainable income for them. So it is not only about self-help but also about financial independence.
ASM - How would you describe or define your fashion style? And can you elaborate a little on the traditional clothing in Somalia?
FW - We are pretty laid back, fun and free spirited; so we just love to wear what we are comfortable in. We are not defined by what others wear or what the trends are for the seasons. Hot trends do not necessarily make one stylish. Somalia’s traditional clothing is called Hido IyoDhaqan. We actually had a top made of it, which is something we love to do- fusing different elements to create our looks.
ASM - So what should we look forward to from you?
FW - We have our self-titled EP Faarrow out now. Look for it online.