After years of becoming more and more delinquent as a blogger, and due to many sweet scoldings by devoted supporters urging me to write more articles, record more songs and provide more updates to my website ~ I have made a decision: Welcome to Issue Number One of The Hum From The Hive! A little, monthly newsletter designed to share brief articles about my continued musical ramblings, homeschooling adventures and experiments with urban farming.
Following a decade of living in other countries, moving back to my hometown of Kitchener, Canada in 2011 proved to be a very surreal experience. These past several years have been emotionally charged ones for me. Seeing many loved ones pass away, observing my rapidly growing daughters and watching my own reflection grey day-by-day, have all preoccupied me. Last year it became necessary for me to take time off from certain projects, shorten my tours and re-adjust not only my work habits, but also many aspects of my personal life.
Though I would not say my pace has slowed down very much, the road I have been travelling on lately has definitly been less of a highway spinning through popular social circles, and more of a country road winding through little towns.
Once upon a time, you would find me on lengthy tours only a few times a year, singing primarily at large venues to Muslim audiences in the UK, Europe or South Africa. My face would pop up in the music videos of friends or on the programs of various satellite TV stations. These days, I travel (mostly on weekends) to smaller gatherings of dedicated community activists. People of all faiths, cultures and demographics working hard to foster positive social, educational and environmental change within their local neighbourhoods. Weekdays, my partner and I, are busy homeschooling our daughters, caring for my aging father and trying to keep up with our household chores. Evenings, when I am not in my studio working on songs, I am in my workshop fixing toys or building something-or-other. On Monday nights I help direct an interfaith choir for children. A few mornings a week I head out to local schools as an educational puppeteer for a disability awareness program. Once in a while you may even find me mowing lawns or singing at local seniors gatherings!
Long story short ~ I’m keeping busy and not always as passionate about posting new articles as other bloggers are… or even making albums like most other musicians do. Hopefully, a brief, monthly, newsletter will be better than complete silence from my little corner of the world…and a way of letting you know that I am still “humming in my hive”!
Overview of 2017
Last year, on multiple occasions, kind-hearted audience members approached me after events and said things like, “Where have you been these past many years?”, “Why did you stop making music?” or my favourite, “Oh, it was so good to hear you sing again! We’ve missed you since you retired!” Retired?!
Truth is, troubadours in my line of living, who approach music the way I approach it, never “retire”. We just keep rolling on wheels of steel that spark and spin, only seizing up if we stop for too long in one place. In fact, 2017 was quite a busy year for me with over 75 musical performances spread out between Canada, the USA, the UK and Malaysia. The greatest part of all those gatherings: meeting the incredible people who came out to each event and sang along. On top of those shows, my work as an educational puppeteer had me doing well over 50 performances at local schools in my hometown.
Granted, I have not recorded or released much music lately, but I have been actively sifting through tons of demo recordings and unreleased songs to see what might be worthy of producing properly to release this year. I’ll keep you posted!
A Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian walk into a concert hall… What may be mistaken for a stand-up comedian’s opening line is actually Abraham Jam, a trio composed of my dear friends Billy Jonas, David LaMotte and I. The band originally formed in 2010 for a show at Duke University, followed by appearances at the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music and the 2015 Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. We “brothers” from the three Abrahamic faiths have been performing extensively over the past six months, with an album in the works and several tour dates lined up for 2018.
Visit the Abraham Jam website here to find out where we will be performing during the months ahead or to book us for a concert in your area. There are also some live videos on the site for you to enjoy!
The Times They Are A Changin’…
As I approach the third decade of my musical adventure in a couple of years, it astonishes me that I have been able to reach this new season of my journey while still maintaining my sacred independence as an artist. There have been fleeting times in the past when I have worked with labels, managers or agents, but generally my D.I.Y. nature has always been a thorn in their sides. The ideological approach I take to my life, and subsequently my livelihood, usually confuses other people to high heaven. They could never understand why I eschew PR campaigns, photo shoots, music videos or paid advertising. They have always been baffled by my decisions to sing live and fully acoustic, without backing tracks or even stage monitors, in many cases. They could never get their business-focussed brains around why I accept to do almost as many free shows each year as paid ones, or why I give away more physical CDs than I sell each year. And when I explain that I would rather allow internet fans to distribute my songs than official music-labels…well, you can imagine their patronizing smiles.
Somehow though, my idiosyncrasies, have never let me down. It has always worked best for me to do things independently, handling most aspects of my work on my own, as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer: writing, recording, website maintenance, social media management, correspondence, tour details, accounting. It is even my preference to carry my own bags and guitar to venues. (Oh how that bothers some well intending hosts!) “If it is too much for me to carry, it is too much for me to have!” I always say.
Well, last year, I had to admit to a certain degree of defeat. Family needs, booking requests, overwhelming correspondence, backlogged projects, increasing anxiety and that dastardly menace named “Middle Age” constantly poking me with aches and pains ~ they all pointed out to me that, if I wanted to keep moving forward both physically and mentally healthy for another thirty years, I needed to make some changes.
Enter into my life Syed Umar Warsi. Umar is the Executive Director of Book A Muslim, an agency representing speakers, artists, and performers for all audiences. Since January of 2017 Umar has been a dear friend and assistant to me, managing all of my invitations, travel itineraries and website correspondence. His help, professionalism and attention to detail over the past year have made it possible for me to step away from many of the administrative tasks that had been interfering with my artistic work over the years.
Beyond his managerial skills, Umar truly understands my approaches to community service and community song. Knowing how important my direct communication with supporters is, he coordinates with event hosts on my behalf, granting me more time to keep up with the warm, personal letters I receive. (That said, I am still sifting through correspondence dating back quite some time. So if any of you have written to me, hang tight… your follow-up letter is coming!)
Before starting BAM in 2016, Umar served as the Director of Supported Living in a non-profit agency working for individuals with intellectual disabilities. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social services from Northern Illinois University and a Master’s degree in business management from Indiana University. In his spare time, Umar performs spoken word poetry, organizes community events, and makes cooking videos with his wife and three-year old daughter in Madison, Wisconsin.
Anyone dropping us a line to inquire about a booking, Umar will be able to help you arrange a visit far more professionally and efficiently than I ever could. Rest assured, once Umar gets me to your town, I will be at your service with no entourages or body-guards… and you can guarantee I will still want to carry my own suitcase and guitar.