A Golden Jubilee initiative, the Ismaili Community Ensemble (ICE) has gone from strength to strength, encouraging musical creativity, fostering community spirit and making themselves known within the wider community.


A two-tiered audition marked the start, assessing musical ability as well as musical creativity; ICE, by its very nature, relies on each musician finding their own sound and contributing creatively to the music. ICE do not read music from scores or play music composed by others, rather they collectively experiment with chord sequences, develop harmonies and write words that their journeys as Ismaili Muslims in today’s society.

Every ICE performance is centred on a theme or concept which gives direction to the music and lyrics created. During a brainstorming session at the start of their most recent project, they questioned whether there is really such thing as a true opposite? Delving further, they explored the idea of duality, a concept that is present throughout life; the notion that it is not ‘one or the other’, but rather that opposites are so dependent on each other that one cannot exist without the other. Thus, a theme was found - Duality: Two Alternatives in Harmony.

In Chinese philosophy, the age old symbol ‘Yin and Yang’ represents opposite forces that are actually complementary and interdependent in the natural world. Similar concepts are present in Islamic philosophy. Poets such as Rumi and Ibn ‘Arabi have written extensively on the notion of duality. The Qur’an says: “And of everything we have created pairs” (51:49). With this in mind, the first ICE workshop involved the creation of a mind map of examples of duality which were then used to inspire ICE’s music, for example:

In nature: Sun/Moon, Fire/Water
In humans: Mind/Body, Man/Woman
In ethics: Good/Bad, Positive/Negative
In religion: Heaven/Earth, Material/Spiritual

Whichever philosophy you subscribe to, there exists harmony and equilibrium between the two principles of existence. For example, in the Ismaili faith, we seek to achieve a balance between our spiritual and material lives.

Being part of ICE is not simply about the performance. It is the journey that each musician takes. Full day rehearsals are tough, requiring determination, concentration and perseverance. Learning to work together as a team and listening to each other are integral parts of the ICE experience. The process involves religious education, and learning about the ethics and values associated with our faith. Ginans, qasidas, poetry by Rumi and other such scholars are all explored within this creative environment.

ICE invited members of the Jamat to write some poetry or prose on the theme of duality and overwhelmed with the creativity shown, came to feature some entries in their musical pieces at two sell-out performances at the Ismaili Centre, London. The effect of the spoken word, amongst the music, created a unique blend of inspired art.

Against the golden glimmer of Gulgee’s art, the drums beat out a deep rhythm, the lone violin transported the listener to another place in time... the steady strum of the bass and guitar allowed the saxophones to experiment with the melodies...the chords of the piano encouraged the flight of the bansuri...

Until finally all was silent as the voices as one, sang out in praise of Allah.

Just like a puzzle, the energy, the passion, the harmony, the pieces all fit perfectly. As the sun sets on this cycle, we await its rising for the next.

“Sure as the sunset will follow sunrise
duality is a part of our lives
In times of fear hope will help us survive,
duality is a part of our lives”

(selected lyrics from the concert).