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Jasmine's Story

by Jane Cornwell | Music Critic

"There are singers and there are singers. Then there is Jasmine Faulkner."


London-based, Guildhall-trained, the British Persian twentysomething has a voice so beautiful, so clear and powerful and light, that it doesn't just stop you in your tracks. It holds you close. Makes you feel.​"I feel blessed that I can sing whatever style of music I like," says Faulkner of her classically-trained prowess. "I want my music  to be accessible to everyone, especially to women and girls. So I am creating a fresh sound world, an innovative musical fusion,  that brings a message of hope in these challenging times." The songs that Faulkner chooses to sing - and increasingly, to write - also make you think. Take 'Luka', her sublime cover of Suzanne Vega's international hit, the story of a frightened boy unable to disclose what he is going through. Lifted by simple melodies and upbeat chords, by strings, electronics and washes of Iranian sitar, Faulkner's remarkable vocals illuminate the song's dark subject matter. Her years of experience as a vocal coach, particularly for children, lend 'Luka' further authenticity. As indeed does Faulkner's proud Iranian cultural heritage, reclaimed and reinvigorated in tandem with the current female-led revolt in Iran.

There's solidarity here. A demand for freedom. For liberation.

Jasmine Faulkner Look 3.jpg

"I aim to push the boundaries of a classical singer," says Faulkner, whose soprano stylings are showcased in renowned female quartet Ida, the UK's leading classical crossover group, and who continues to subvert the cliché of the opera singer in a sparkling maxi-gown with her penchant for edgy, young designer-led fashion.

Her intensive classical training is her superpower, a secret weapon that allows her to traverse genres with ease. Folk music is a lifelong passion - her cover of Sandy Denny's 'Who Knows Where The Times Goes' has been widely praised for its sensitivity, expressiveness and gentle control. There's also a fluency in Faulkner's breathing techniques, in her knowing when to hold back and when to let go, that might be considered a metaphor for life: "I tell even my youngest students to stand strong and breathe, because that way their voice will be strong, that if they learn how to take their space then they will flow through life with a little more ease."

Faulkner is taking her space. The daughter of a British father and an Iranian mother who fled to Britain in the Seventies, just before the last Shah was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution, Jasmine was born in Windsor and grew up in Germany then Oxfordshire. Inspired by the musical leanings of both sets of grandparents (her paternal grandmother played piano, her maternal grandfather wielded the Persian drum), there were lessons in piano, flute and guitar. And from the age of seven, in singing.


"Music is in the blood," says Faulkner, whose elder sister is lauded sound artist Fari Bradley. "From a really young age I was going to exhibitions featuring Fari's sound art and electronics and nothing ever seemed weird or out of the ordinary. She was always telling me to write my own music."


A smile. "Now I have something to say."

Faulkner's voice, sensational even as a child, was given classical training via the Junior Guildhall initiative within London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where - always the youngest student in her year - she went on to obtain her degree. She fell for opera; her roles at Guildhall included everything from Erste Knabe in Mozart's The Magic Flute to Titania, Queen of the Faeries, in Britten's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her dissertation on Iranian influences in classical music by composers such as Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc celebrated motifs and Persian imagery. “The title alone of Fauré’s Les Roses D’Ispahan is magical and fragrant. You can almost smell Iran as you listen."


But despite celebrating each Persian New Year with dishes including Fesenjan ("Chicken with pomegranate molasses and walnuts; incredible"), and despite having visited Iran twice, Faulkner never properly embraced her Iranian roots. That all changed in September 2022 with news of the mass protests sparked by the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, arrested and horrifically beaten by Iran's morality police for improperly wearing her headscarf. In the days following her death, girls and women nationwide defied the legally imposed dress code and removed their hijabs - the most sustained uprising in the 43-year history of the Islamic Republic.


"I was following several Instagram accounts and watching the protests spreading, these girls fighting back, standing up for their basic human rights. They might have been my friends, my contemporaries. I began researching; I learned that it is illegal in Iran for women to sing, ride a bike, walk a dog. They can never freely feel the wind in their hair. To do all the things we take for granted."


She pauses for a beat. "Suddenly, everything I'd wanted to do made sense. Up to this point I'd been inspired by the resilience of the mostly young teens that I teach. Many of them find it hard to navigate the world; I have tried hard to create a safe environment where they can channel their pain and let go. I wanted to make music that honoured their voices and strength. I had lots of ideas wanting to happen."

The break-up of a long term relationship proved another catalyst. Faulkner went deep, weaving the physical with the spiritual in ways that grounded her - and made her vibrate at a higher frequency. She increased her network of bad-ass women. Musicians, photographers, spiritual guides, designers. Women who took their space, found joy in female empowerment, in breaking limits. In the rise of the Divine Feminine.


Two of these women, known as Digital Roses, collaborated on 'Luka'. More will help bring to life Faulkner's pending stage show, a grand female-centric production variously involving dancers, storytellers and an all-woman band, along with, electronic effects and maneuvers cinematic and orchestral. "On 'Luka' (Coming in 2024) the classical vocals are akin to a guardian angel, an inner voice saying you've got to scream, shout and fight on". All of which is intended to take us, the audience, on a journey of a girl who wanders, overcomes challenges, finds herself. As we, the audience, find ourselves. The message is - has always been - hope.

It's a work-in-progress, developing even as Faulkner continues to perform around the world as a soloist. In Cairo, Paris, St Moritz. Singing with the London Film Orchestra, to Royalty at Windsor Castle and featuring on ITV. Delivering the British National Anthem at the Rugby Autumn International and most recently at both the Men's and Women's FA cup finals at Wembley stadium. Singing alongside the Band of the Grenadier Guards at the Houses of Parliament. Leading a 342,000 strong children's choir for the National Literacy Trust's Remembrance Assembly broadcast. She was also commissioned to become the voice of young Clara Holst in the film A Woman's Life which is available for viewing on Amazon Prime. 

Her voice as beautiful, as clear and powerful and light, as ever.


"I've figured out a few things," Faulkner says. "I know that there is a lesson to be learnt in everything that happens. That being pushed aside can make you come back stronger. I know that my soul path is to help people, especially women and girls. I want my voice to be a small wave in the rising of the Divine Feminine.


"It's exciting." She flashes a smile. "And it's only just begun."

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