Though a new album of original songs is in production for release shortly, it is my pleasure to share this collection of twenty songs entitled “Acoustic Simplictea” ~ now available on-line for digital download (CD versions will be hot off the press during my November 2015 tour.)
A year or so ago, while on the road with the Poetic Vision Tour, fellow songwriter Saad Omar and I noticed something interesting. Frequently, at the end of a two hour show, audience members would come up to me and sheepishly ask, “Are you the same Dawud who wrote songs we listened to as kids…songs like Bismillah and Sing Children of The World? We had no idea it was you up there tonight the whole time! We grew up on your songs.”
During my almost 25 years of singing, there have indeed been times, places and circumstances where I have presented my work for specific niche communities and demographics. Sometimes that has resulted in degrees of distance between my audiences. Occasionally it has even caused confusion in the minds of some listeners who have developed assumptions about my work or about me personally. Once, a very upset father emailed me to say that he had brought his child to one of my shows expecting a percussion based concert about animals, nature and God, only to have me kick off with a tune about child abuse, strummed passionately on the guitar. “I took my son by the hand and we left the hall very upset.” he wrote.
In cafes or folk-festivals of my late teens, I sang of a search for identity or mused about my observations of humanity and it’s greed. Discovering that many of my fellow muslims in the world were dogmatically disconnected from their rich musical past and culturally caged in narrow theological paradigms, I began to write songs for their children ~ urging the importance of artistic expression as a means of positive social change. When I realized many parents were listening to the songs as well, I began to address issues of domestic violence, gender equity, spiritual self-righteousness and the importance of religious pluralism in my songs. As the simplicity of spiritual nasheed (hymns drawn from Qur’anic and muslim tradition) fell prey to the trends of a growing commercial muslim pop-music “industry”, I began turning inward to write about my ongoing spiritual journey ~ relationships that shaped me, scarred me or healed me ~ and songs pertaining to my passions for the environment, Simple Living and pacifism.
At times, I have recorded my songs pretentiously with producers and session players to create lush arrangements. At times I have recorded independently ~ using just my own voice as the primary melody instrument, atop layered harmonies and simple percussion.
Through it all though, one thing has remained consistent. All of my songs grew out of simple observations I have planted over the years in my journals. They are organically rooted in the soil of my belief that life has divine purpose ~ that it was created and not the product of accidental circumstance. They grow upon a stem of understanding that each life is sacred and of equal worth ~ deserving of dignity, the freedom of choice and the honour of mercy. They blossom as expressions of my experiences, with leaves of varying shapes and sizes, and flowers of both fragrant and sometimes even pungent reminders to those who pass them by. The songs themselves are diffused from the leaves of the plant. After brewing and stewing, they sometimes result in a warm, sweet beverage that is palatable and sometimes pour out bitter and dark.
And so it is that my friend Saad Omar suggested I re-record some of my songs in a simple, live, acoustic style ~ as a way of drawing attention to the consistent ideological journey that has always underscored in my writings over the past two decades.
“Acoustic Simplicitea” is that collection. It was captured live over a two day span in my hometown of Kitchener Ontario, at the same studio where I recorded most of my albums, including “Colours of Islam”, “Road To Madinah”, “Sunshine Dust and The Messenger”, “The Prophet’s Hands” and “The Poets and The Prophet”.
Growing up on the music of iconic folk singers like of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Liam Clancy, I took a retro approach to capturing the songs, strumming and singing simultaneously into a mic with no overdubs or digital apps to correct my pitch. If we were sitting for a cup of tea together in my living-room and you asked me to pull out guitar and sing you a song ~ this is pretty much what I’d sound like.
My hope is that those of you who have shared my songs with me over the years ~ the children’s songs, anasheed or even the angst folk music ~ will take a listen, better understand me and those ideas I hold so dear in my life, then join me in song by adding your own parts to these basic skeletons of work.
If you are a closet violinist, a bed-sit guitar picker, a garage rock band, a Saturday night DJ, a Tuesday evening piano-school student, a bathroom-shower-solo-choir-member or a stay-at-home mum/lullaby expert ~ grab a mic and your home computer, play your favourite song from the collection through some headphones while you record your harmonies, raps or instrument of choice, then send me the final track as an MP3 or AIF file and I will re-edit a few of these songs for a follow up version of the album recorded with you. We’ll call it, “The Tea Party Mix”.
When I was starting out in music, an old friend of mine who often tried to ill-fittingly book me into local shows, once told me: “Dave, nobody wants to hear you sing your journal.” I stopped having him book my shows and took my songs out onto street corners where I found that indeed, there were tens of thousands of others too afraid, too sick, too unstable, too confused or just plain too unsure of how to capture their observations of life’s struggles and joys into a journal. To my joy, many of these folks were also all too happy to sing the pages of my diary with me so collectively we could foster a sense of hope.
Thank you for joining me on this musical journey over the past 20+ years and let’s keep trying to change the world for the better…together…one song at a time.
PS ~ that gentleman who was so upset at me and walked out of my show…we spoke by phone shortly after I received his email. “Call me up,” I wrote him, “let’s talk.” And we did. And all went well. We promised one day we’d have tea together. Simplicitea. As Willie Shakespeare wrote, “If music be the food of love (ie can open the door to valuable communication resulting in peace) ~ play on!”