Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 7th 2014 Contents CHARLES KONG SOO
Zaira Ali has overcome tremendous adversity
in her life to use her voice to bring joy and sing
in support of disabled veterans, the elderly in the
US, and for charities and orphans in the land of
her birth, Trinidad.
She has promised to return to Trinidad for the
Christmas season to do benefit shows and per-
formances for the St Mary s Children Home s 60
Ali is trying to get sponsors onboard to help the
less fortunate and needy for a worthy cause, and
she has asked international companies such as Jet-
Blue for assistance.
Her repertoire runs the gamut from Christmas
songs, American cover music, parang to what she
calls "inspirational" songs rather than traditional
Just like William Jan Berry from the American
rock and roll duo Jan and Dean of the 60s, Ali has
survived a near-fatal car crash that almost ended
her singing career.
Ali would take time off from her job as an
accountant and every Thanksgiving or 4th of July
she would head for Canada with her son for the
On that fateful day in 2005, Ali s car picked up
a skid on the ice on the interstate and she suffered
a broken neck, and her entire face and eyes were
burned in the horrific accident.
She said she had no recollection of the incident
and the paramedics told her son that she had died
in the mangled wreck. This left her family trau-
Ali said that after 20 minutes the paramedics
found a pulse, but she was blind for two weeks.
She said after new lenses were inserted into her
eyes, her retinas now change colour sometimes to
blue, green, and hazel like a cat s.
Ali said she also lost her job and home after the
accident. While recovering from her injuries and
her vision impaired, she still drove with the assis-
tance of her son who gave her directions.
She said that at the time she thought that was
too much pressure for her son, but after seeing his
resilience as he cared for her Ali saw military material
in him. She said he later entered the US Army and
did his tour in Iraq.
After making arrangement for Indian musicians
to record with her idol, bhajan (devotional) singer
Juthika Roy, from India, at Ali s hometown in Ten-
nessee, Roy, 93, died in hospital in India after a
prolonged illness, on February 5, 2014.
Two days later, Ali suffered a heart attack on
the day she was scheduled to perform at a Mother s
Despite these setbacks, the singer/songwriter
has filled the shoes of professional nurse, accountant,
computer technician and now, legal advocate.
Although she is not a lawyer, she said she had
helped immigrant families regularise their status
in the US. Ali claimed that what the lawyer of an
Afghan family in New York could not do for them
in ten years with their immigration papers, she did
it in three months.
She said she experienced discrimination from
US Embassy staff stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Ali said the embassy staff were warm and friendly
to her when she spoke (in her American accent)
with them over the telephone from the States, but
their attitude changed when she showed up in per-
son dressed in a hijab and traditional Muslim wear
to help the Afghan family.
Acting as facilitator, Ali said the family s three
children had cancer and she asked the US Embassy
officials that they be admitted to Johns Hopkins
Hospital for clinical trials or they will die.
She said she wanted nothing and she
derived satisfaction and pleasure wanting
to see children get a chance to live.
Ali said, "My story is that people
don t have to use a situation as an
excuse that they can t do some-
"I ve been there, even faced
death and survived.
"We have lots to be grate-
ful for and that s why when
people talk to me about
doing shows, I never put
a dollar figure in front.
"Mastana Bahar s
pays everybody to do
his shows, I don t
even ask him for a
dime, I buy my
own ticket to
Ali said her
purpose was to
put a smile on
people s faces, the
children in the
Tacarigua Orphanage, the
disabled vets in Tennessee, she
sang for the Children s Lighthouse in the
70s, and for nursing homes for 16 years
in New York.
What's next for Ali?
Ali said after her idol Roy s death ear-
lier this year, she could not go back to
the studio to record the vocals to Roy s
songs as she would become emotional.
She said she had to put off the
recording as she was not in peak con-
dition and her throat was now clearing
up from the dust in Afghanistan when
she visited there in July.
Ali said even though she needed
more rest, she plans to put on a
show for the underprivileged chil-
dren and market her Zaira Ali Sings
inspirational songs CD.
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2014
Zaira's triumph over tragedy
"My story is that people don't
have to use a situation as an
excuse that they can't do
something. I've been there,
even faced death and survived.
We have lots to be grateful for
and that's why when people
talk to me about doing shows, I
never put a dollar figure in
---Singer, Zaira Ali
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