The songs of the zikrare usually performed privately, in single-sex groups. (Traditionally, says Badi, men practiced the zikr, but around the turn of the 20th century, female-only groups began cropping up in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital). Practitioners begin by sitting in a circle in a darkened room, chanting the names of God with increasing intensity, until they are inspired to start moving, first by stamping and clapping along with the music, then by running in ecstasy, singing over and over, “La ilaha ilallah” — there is no God but God.
But Badi saw in the songs and prayers of the zikran opportunity to present a different face of Chechen culture. Soon after the war began in 1999, Badi approached a village elder, a woman, for permission to publicly perform some of the zikr music, to demonstrate to the world that there was more to Chechnya than violence. Permission was granted, and Badi created Ensemble Aznash, a group of all-female vocalists, which has since performed at festivals of sacred music in Poland, Turkey and Morocco, among other places.