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Everyone has a Story: Aisyah Zulkarnain

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Aisyah Zulkarnain, age 22, is known as the first Bruneian to work in the film music industry in the United States. After graduating from the University of Rochester, New York with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a minor in Studio Arts, she moved to Los Angeles to work at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions (composer for films such as Dunkirk, Gladiator, Inception, Interstellar and The Lion King) and Henry Jackman’s Sacred Tiger Music (composer for films such as Captain America: Civil War, Kong: Skull Island, Big Hero 6 and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). Aisyah now works for film composer and guitarist, Bryce Jacobs, as a technical score engineer.

Aisyah has also been collaborating with directors in the United States, including working with award-winning independent filmmaker, Ambarien Alqadar, on her short film entitled Ayesha. The story follows Ayesha (Freya Adams), a 28-year-old American-Muslim girl, who struggles to find her place in a culture where her immigrant father, a taxi driver named Aziz (Rehan Ansari), feels like an outsider. Aziz encounters an ex-marine who served in the Afghanistan war, which triggers a traumatic neurosis and shuts himself away from his family. Ayesha decides to seek medical help for her father, but it brings her in a direct confrontation with her mother, Nadine (Riti Sachdeva), to whom Aziz’s afflictions represent divine punishments.

After the film’s official release in June 2017, Ayesha won an Award of Distinction at the 2017 Canada International Shorts Festival, was nominated for Best Ensemble Narrative Short at the 2018 Queens World Film Festival, and was picked to screen at the 2017 Oil Valley Film Festival. Aisyah’s music in the film utilizes a string ensemble, solo bassoon, solo voice, and a hint of ethnic instruments from South Asia. She also incorporated organic-sounding synthesizers underneath the ensemble to give the score its dark tone.

As an alumna of the International School Brunei, Aisyah’s exposure to traditional Malay music and the music of other cultures impacted her enthusiasm to seek colourful timbres and textural soundscapes, which can be heard in much of her work, including Ayesha. You can also find more of Aisyah’s music on her official website,, and on SoundCloud.

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