FAARROW Pays It Forward: Music and Podcasting to Guide and to Heal
Issue 5 | An Ethos of Caring
It would be easy to mistake Iman and Siham Hashi for twins. The sister-duo, who perform under the moniker FAARROW, get asked if they’re twins all the time. A testament, perhaps, to the close nature of their bond or their propensity to finish each other’s sentences.
The translation of both their names into English, Iman meaning “faith” and Siham meaning “arrow,” led to the joint name FAARROW. It’s a fitting name because their work, artistic and humanitarian, has been grounded in spiritual guidance, leading themselves and simultaneously, their listeners to a path of personal discovery and growth.
The sisters fled Somalia in 1991, with their parents and three other siblings, to escape a civil war, and settled in Toronto. In the years since they’ve carved out a music career, launched a spirituality podcast named “POWHER” and done a number of humanitarian benefits and advocacy work for refugees with organizations like the United Nations.
After living in Los Angeles for eight years, they moved back to Toronto. They were in L.A. creating music, releasing a constant stream of videos and singles and signed to Warner Brothers Music. Things fell through with the record deal in 2018 after the sisters realized it wasn’t quite the right fit for them.
“It gets really tough because people in the music industry will try to divide you and it’s kind of weird. I realized our bond is so strong, if this industry part of music is not for our highest good, I would still want my sister more than this music shit,” said Iman.
Coming back to Toronto, and coming out of their record deal, they felt they had so much to share. They felt freedom from being unattached to the label and were on a new spiritual journey. They were in what Siham calls their “creating cave bubble” for two years before they released a new song with producer Keith Harris, called “Happy We Made It” in June of this year. It’s an upbeat bop about going along with the ebb and flow of life and staying grateful for the blessings along the way.
This new period sees them creating more freely than they ever have in their lives. Their podcast POWHER, which they launched in July 2018, shortly after moving back to Toronto, has been a major force in helping them open up and express themselves. “I think coming back to Toronto was a restart, like realigning ourselves with what we wanted. The podcast was a part of that journey of coming back ” said Siham.
Their thoughts and words flow naturally into one another’s, making them the perfect pair to host a podcast together. The casual tone of the podcast—they refer to the recording process as downloading—is like eavesdropping on the sisters while they have intimate conversations about shame inflicted on women by culture and religion, the balance of divine femininity and masculinity, guided meditations, critiquing ingrained belief systems and exploring emotional and mental health. At its heart, it’s focused on releasing and relinquishing control of what no longer serves us, and many listeners have shared with the sisters that they found healing through the podcast.
Throughout all the music, writing and podcasting, they continued to do humanitarian work to highlight the plight of refugees worldwide. In 2011, in collaboration with the United Nations they released a song with Ziggy Marley called “If I Could Change The World,” produced by Prince Wonder of the Fugees. In 2013, they performed at the Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony, which honours an individual or group that goes above and beyond to protect refugees and displaced peoples. Since, they have moved away from UN related work and are now more focused on grassroots organizing. As Somali refugees, their family is always giving back and supporting in quieter, less publicized ways. As children of the diaspora they see this as a responsibility they’re more than proud to take up. Their mother is in the midst of building a school and housing in the country. “It’s in our family, we learned from our mom to always pay it forward,” said Iman.
In 2017, following American President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban travelers from majority-Muslim countries like Yemen, Somalia, Iran and Syria, Spotify launched a multi-platform campaign called “I’m with the banned.” Artists from these countries were invited to Toronto (since the United States wasn’t an option) to record music with established American artists like Pusha T, BJ the Chicago Kid and K.Flay, as a show of solidarity. Somewherelse provided event production services and managed all talent logistics on the tour. During the rollout of the accompanying documentary there was an event marking the release of the film, where Faarrow opened the whole tour.
Aside from organizing, they’ve honed in the concept of “soul healing.” Siham became an energy practitioner and a Reiki master, which she talks about on the podcast. “I started doing free energy therapy, especially in light of Black Lives Matter, for Black people. I feel like we don’t often really have access to these types of therapies.”
Although they’ve built a sense of home in Toronto, they long to return to Somalia but haven’t been able to go back since they fled as children. Scheduling conflicts have prevented them from returning for the past seven years and now the pandemic is impeding them. Luckily, being members of the larger diaspora Somali community has afforded them numerous bonding experiences with Somali communities all over the world. Last year, they did a residency in Minnesota, performing and speaking at local schools and universities. The campaign was created to bridge the gap between Somali refugees living in predominantly white communities in cities Minneapolis. They spoke about their culture and identity and constructive community conversations, even recording a live episode of POWHER .
“I love the Minnesota community because there’s so much creativity there and, oftentimes in the Somali community, creativity and the arts, isn’t really encouraged. You’re more encouraged to go into corporate and professional industries. I loved how they embrace creativity. They would do plays and have arts programs and lessons where they taught the younger generation traditional cultural dances so they can carry it on and keep it alive,” said Iman.
Written by Kelsey Adams
Lead Photo Illustration by Marta Ryczko
Photos courtesy of FAARROW