Music provides us with the opportunity to lose ourselves in a melody that can uplift, connect, transport and inspire. Through this universal expression, we have the ability to speak in a language that is both personal and emotional. As the Diamond Jubilee year is commemorated, Ismaili artists from around the world have come together to express devotion and highlight the diversity within the Jamat.
With Heart, With Love was composed by Samira Noorali, Kamal Haji, Shariq Lalani and Aamir Barolia, recorded, and then performed live in all nine centers across the US on July 11, 2017, by choirs of 6-12 singers. According to Kamal, this piece aimed to highlight the notion of One Jamat across the diverse traditions that exist within the community: “We volunteered to be part of this one-of-a-kind collaboration opportunity… One of the most interesting things about this song is the way it is arranged, and it sounds best when sung as a group using chorus and harmonies.”
The piece itself evolved from a single composer, to collaboration through the musical backgrounds the others brought to the table. Samira recalls, “Ideas for interesting chord schemes and verses in other languages became a part of our dialogue. We come from various musical backgrounds and I believe the piece shows that.”
One of the vocalists, Kanwal Sumnani, also played the role of conductor for the Greater Los Angeles Opening Ceremony. “This piece meant a lot to me… It was an opportunity to leave a small mark on the commencement of Diamond Jubilee. For me, singing is a deeply personal and spiritually- rooted experience. Whether I’m singing in Hebrew or Latin, or reciting ginans, I feel connected to the sacred messages that ring through,” remarks Kanwal. She has a rare quality---naturally perfect pitch. “I have been singing in choir since age 12. At the middle school level there were opportunities to advance into new concert ensembles, like the regional Honor Choir. I also took some one-on-one vocal training to improve my classical singing. I’m still singing in a community choir, and chamber ensembles. I find great joy when singing in harmony and singing music with multiple voice parts… It’s mentally stimulating and I appreciate the challenge.” Kanwal’s deep sense of inspiration and her strong knowledge of music theory makes her a powerhouse musician and singer.
When this song is heard, the emotion invoked is truly moving; the unification of East and West musical influences and the coming together of various backgrounds – Syrian, Persian, Tajik, Afghan, and Indo-Pak, instils this sense of unity, happiness and gratitude. “This is how I feel about my Ismaili Identity,” Samira explains.
The diverse traditions were also evident in the One Jamat Launch that took place in the United States and really set the tone with this song at the commencement of the festivities. Kamal’s hope for this piece is that the listener feels the love for the Imam expressed in different voices – both solo and chorus which is presented via various musical genres and languages, “As a co-composer and co-lyricist of this song, I would also hope that Jamat feels the depth that is expressed in the form of a very different composition style and selection of words.”
The hook, “With heart, with love, mubaraki, this Jubilee” was beautifully composed by Samira along with the remainder of the English lyrics. “This song contains my truth. I wanted to give my genuine love to the Jamat… No pretenses, just my love and joy to the community that makes me who I am,” she revealed.
Kamal took that as a source of motivation to compose and write the portions of the song Urdu, Tajik and Persian. During this process, ideas were presented by the producers; Shariq and Aamir who helped find motivation and guided the process; Nilmin Haiderali, the project lead, also contributed a great deal with some of the Eastern flavors that are tastefully introduced in the English parts; the lead arranger of the song, Aamir, also introduced the idea of adding the Kalama. With that, “We ended up incorporating 4-6 different languages in the song: English, Arabic, Urdu/Hindi and Tajik/Persian” added Kamal. As you hear this song, the diversity of not only the US Jamat, but the Global Jamat is particularly reminiscent.
The sense of oneness and unity that the song reflects is in line with what Kamal believes, “The same wish and expectation that the Imam has from his murids...to work together in peace and harmony as One Jamat!” beamed Kamal.
The benefit of having a theme song for this auspicious occasion is the celebratory nature it brings with it. Kanwal believes the same when she adds, “This song is a platform that tells us why we are celebrating, and shows the Jamat how are we expressing. It evokes certain emotions and as people start to recognize the direction of the melody from hearing it more and more, it has a potential to stay in people’s memories for many years to come.”
With Heart, With Love credits:
Collaboration Facilitator: Nilmin Haiderali Bakhsh
Music Producers: Aamir Barolia and Shariq Lalani
Composers: Samira Noorali, Kamal Haji and Aamir Barolia
Lyrics: Samira Noorali and Kamal Haji
Vocals: Samira Noorali, Saif Sattani, Kanwal Sumnani, Kamal Haji, Shariq Lalani and Lola Kassamali
Vocal arrangement: Samira Noorali
Kalama Chorus: Pervez Mirza, Imran Boodhwani, Arsalan Hirani, Amin Veljee, Arshad Rais, Moiz Merchant