Spearheaded by the Ismaili Council for the Far East, the song showcases the collaboration between composer Karim Barolia and 62 global artists commissioned by The Ismaili Sounds, quite fittingly representing the 63rd year of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat and a testament to the symbolism that the song represents. Not only that, but the artists hail from a total of 25 countries and speak seven different languages, further demonstrating the diversity and richness that makes up the global Ismaili community.
Karim is a versatile musician and composer from Pakistan who embarked on a memorable journey along with the other artists, with a unified goal of presenting a story bound by the mystical energy of sounds. What started off as a small-scale production became a massive global initiative as Karim’s vision evolved into reality.
“I like to work on ideas rather than the song itself, and I still remember the initial idea clicked to me at 4 am! I could clearly hear the choral arrangement in my head, and that was it!” Karim said.
From its first moments the song is a delight to my ears. The soothing sound of a flute draws me in, and a wondrous collection of young artists begin with rhythmic clapping and recitation of a line I know well: "Ali Goyam, Ali Joyam" (I call Ali, I seek Ali). This introduction sets a resoundingly powerful yet intricately delicate tone for what’s to come.
In this song, I can make out the sounds of traditional instruments like the daf, harmonium, tabla, and rubab. I can pick up the more contemporary sounds of the acoustic and electric guitars, piano, cello, and violin. I recognise languages such as Urdu, Arabic, Farsi, and French. All of these individual elements on their own are masterfully performed — but it is in their intertwining and intermingling that they result in a truly perfect harmony.
In conversation with Karim, he shared that it was imperative for every artist to be able to connect with the story and vision. He also said, “It is not about the composition or how you sing a song — tones are subjective as they vary artist to artist. But it is the energy that every individual contributed toward creating the magic. When I shared the choral arrangement with the artists, they immediately connected with the composition, song, and the story we were all trying to deliver!”
How beautiful and eloquent a symbol is this collaboration of dozens of Ismaili artists from all around the globe, coming together to share a part of themselves and their heritage through instruments, languages, and voices to create one unified expression of love and devotion for the one who unites us all: our beloved Imam.
From a production perspective, production lead Nazlin Karim from the Far East Council elaborated on this ambitious project as a global one that involved a massive number of resources behind the scenes, including the lyricists, artists, translators, production, and technical teams. It entailed turning around the piece from start to finish in just 36 days. She sees the production process as “a magical journey of experiences, a detailed process of leveraging the strengths of every artist through a collective effort.. She also said it “demonstrated a great synergy and opened doors to cultivate promising new talent.”
The project was not achieved without its fair share of challenges and struggles. The language barrier of working with artists spanning dozens of countries speaking several languages, along with limited resources such as sporadic access to electricity, recording equipment, Internet, and phone connection for many artists, combined with the pandemic’s impacts whereby no artist was unaffected, all while trying to spark an environment of togetherness despite being thousands of miles apart, made for quite the challenge in an already unprecedented time.
Speaking more about his experience, Karim shared, “Despite the language barriers and other communication challenges, the entire journey truly was in fact about communication. As the proverb states, music does not require a language, music is a language itself. I can attest to it that I genuinely have experienced this saying!”
But these bold and fearless artists rose to the challenge.
“All the artists were so humble and cooperative, that it felt as if everyone was in one room, jamming, rehearsing and playing the song together. It almost seemed like the song was recorded like a virtual symphonic choir, when in fact most of the artists were recording individually on their phones! It was like a common harmonic energy brought forth by everyone,” Karim said.
Beyond the melodious sound of the track is its deep and touching message, written in just two days by three lyricists: Riaz Karim Virji, Hena Allana, and Hassan Somani. Hena cited their ability to write the entire song in such a short time frame to a “common inspiration from collaborating and connecting with the participants of the project.” The writers’ deeply-vested involvement and energy paid off, crafting a soulful set of lyrics that convey a profound message paying homage to the Imam.
From the very date the song was premiered, the song was met with tremendous success, receiving positive feedback and appreciation by listeners around the world. Within the first week, the song was heard by over 150,000 listeners, all enjoying the festivity and spirit that it brought. Beyond this, the song saw a ripple effect, motivating many aspiring artists to produce more creative content and to continue collaborations in the form of their own new pieces.
Ultimately, there is a common thread among every character from the story of this grand production, and it is this: inspiration has found every one of these characters, and when visited by inspiration, each of these characters were able to harness, channel, and bring it to life through their contribution to the song, allowing the entire global Jamat to share in this common experience. Like a rich tapestry, the song reflects the collective inspiration of diverse cultures, sounds, languages, and expressions from all walks of life.