[From June Issue 2015]
Singer, Presenter and Translator
“An Islamic Revolution occurred in my native country in 1979. Although traditional songs kept being broadcast, songs sung by female solo singers, and American songs – that had been popular until then – were prohibited. However, since I loved singing, I kept singing in the house,” says Nahid NIKZAD from Iran, laughing. Nahid is a singer who sings at international events, in Iranian restaurants, and in Persian (Persia is the former name of Iran) carpet shops in Japan. She also reads Iranian poems aloud in the Persian language and in Japanese at live music clubs, and gives lectures about Iranian music at universities.
Nahid was born in a small town on the coast of the Caspian Sea. She studied botany at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. During her time at university, she went to a language school to learn English. After graduation, she heard about a farm that was doing a project with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and was looking to hire an English-speaker. She applied and was hired. “English helped me more than botany,” she says, laughing.
After that, through personal connections she made during her time with JICA, she worked for Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). “I became fond of sincere Japanese people, who kept their promises and were punctual,” she says. And so, she married a Japanese man she’d met at work and moved to Japan. “Because I thought I would live here for a long time and raise my children here, I enrolled at a Japanese language school and studied the language eight hours a day,” she says.
One year later, her Japanese was almost perfect. Four years later, she passed Level One (Now N1) of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. Wanting to continue working after getting married, she looked for a job and was hired as a presenter for the Persian Section of NHK World Radio Japan.
“I experienced difficulties because of cultural differences,” says Nahid. “My husband prioritized work over home and said he could not decline invitations to drinking parties with his colleagues. If that was the case, it was puzzling that he could turn down dinner with his own family. Another strange thing was that Japanese do not directly decline invitations. I was shocked to be turned down without being directly told why,” she says.
Nahid tried to understand Japanese culture, because she thought that any country that had developed to such a level, must have its good points. Nevertheless, she felt isolated. “The approach to childcare seemed strange to me, but was not strange to friends that were also mothers. When I asked my husband, he agreed with these mothers. Being isolated, I grew lonely, and began to shout at my children more frequently.”
Nahid felt that she had to change and decided to study singing, an activity she loved. “At first, it was difficult, because I had never sung to musical accompaniment,” she says, smiling wryly. After a while, she was invited to sing Persian folk music at international exchange events and to perform live; this led to more singing work.
Recently, she often sings Japanese songs, too. “Japanese sentences often end with a vowel, so the note sung can be lengthened to sound very pretty. I love the melodies of children’s songs, too. In the future I would like to introduce Iranian poems translated into Japanese and would like to sing Japanese children’s songs translated into Persian. ”