1996 Between duties as an educational puppeteer and personal care assistant to adults with physical disabilities, I continued working on the editing, mixing and mastering of “A Whisper of Peace” throughout the year.
Summer 1996 Enter Into Peace was established as my personal music publishing entity. With a desire to distribute my music as non-commercially as possible, I made the intention to funnel all royalties from my spiritual songs toward educational projects for children through the Enter Into Peace Educational Trust.
Autumn 1996 Met peace activist, writer and media producer Abdul Malik Mujahid, who would become one of the most important mentors in my life.
March 18, 1997 “A Whisper of Peace” was released in North America, the UK and South Africa. The recording received warm reception as one of the first, full-length albums of English language nasheed by a singular artist, made available internationally.
March 25, 1997 Having written new songs during 1996, I immediately launched into the recording of demos for an album to be known as “Colours of Islam”.
Spring 1997 Public response to “A Whisper of Peace” remained overwhelmingly positive. Pirate distribution quickly took the songs to receptive audiences in territories were the album had not been officially released, including the Caribbean, North & Central Africa, Europe and Asia. Bombarded with requests to sing live at events, I chose to decline all invitations out of concern that, integrity of the faith-based songs may be compromised by performances in commercial, concert environments.
May 1997 Sound Vision, the distributor of my albums, also invited me to put my songs, puppetry skills and acting experience to use in their children’s video series Adam’s World. “We’ve Scanned The Sky (The Ramadan Song)” was written and recorded for use in Adam’s World 9: Ramadan Mubarak. Watch video here.
Summer 1997 Formal recording sessions began for “Colours of Islam” at Studio-A in my hometown of Kitchener. Ron Burklen and Katie Wreford (proprietors at the time) were quickly adopted as dear friends, with their studio becoming the creative space where I would go on to record, mix and master almost all of my albums for two decades.
Determined to challenge patriarchal opinions often associated with traditional sacred music, I had a young girl, Zainab Patel, sing solo on “Little Bird”. The song, while appearing to be a conversation between a child and a bird, was actually about forced child labour.
August 23, 1997 Performed live at a sacred music event hosted by students at the University of Toronto. Uncomfortable as it was for me to sing on stage again after a three year hiatus, the community gathering did connect me with other artists who would quickly become close friends, supporters and colleagues, including songwriter Nader Khan. Watch video here.
Winter 1998 “The Veil” (co-written with friend Zahra Duran) was used in the documentary film Hijab ~ An Act of Faith.
Mixing and mastering continued on “Colours of Islam”. Cautiously and pro bono, I began accepting invitations to share songs live at small community gatherings close to my home in Ontario, Canada.
April 1998 “Colours of Islam” was released through Sound Vision to audiences in North America, the UK and South Africa.
Spring 1998 Began hosting a weekly spiritual program, “Noor Al Islam”, at Waterloo’s CKWR 98.5 ~ the same community station which had supported the musical efforts of Heather Chappell and I five years earlier (as CKWR 98.7).
Requests to lecture and sing increased, with my travels taking me down into the American states of Iowa, Missouri and Florida.
May 1998 Recording sessions for “Road To Madinah” began. In an effort to make the new songs more colourful and rhythmic, I brought in producer Trevor Yuile and percussionist Dale Marcell to assist me in studio.
August 1998 Stepped away from my full-time position with The Kids on The Block educational puppet troupe, devoting my time exclusive to audio production for Sound Vision. (Continuing as a volunteer with Kids on The Block though, for another fifteen years.)
Autumn 1998 War in the Balkans, and an influx of refugees to Canada from the former Yugoslavia, inspired numerous fundraising events and initiatives. Beyond a handful of presentations I made at anti-war rallies, I also produced the musical soundtrack to a documentary entitled Crisis In Kosova.
December 1998 Bill Kocher and I resumed writing and recording new demos together.
Winter 1999 “Road To Madinah” was officially released in North America and the UK.
February 1999 Inspired by the multitudes of demo recordings I was regularly receiving from individuals around the world, I began production on “Light Upon Light”. The compilation album would be made up of songs by non-commercial artists, with the intention of celebrating the North American Muslim community’s cultural and artistic diversity. Always eager to push for gender equity, I was pleased to have spoken word poetry on the album by Shireen Patel, and the song “Ya Ummati” written by Jen Zaghloul and Asifa Sheikh. The album also introduced the world to Irfan Makki, one of the most talented singers and one of the most gracious human beings I have ever worked with in my life.
Spring 1999 The ongoing crisis in Kosova, spurred me into recording an EP entitled “The Letter ~ Songs of Struggle and Hope”. Studio time, graphic design and printing costs were all donated, with each finished recording being assembled by the hands of volunteers.
June 1999 Nader Khan and I record “Remember Allah” for Adam’s World 11: Zakat Helps Everyone. See song video here. Assisting with puppetry for the episode, I also appeared on camera in one scene. See episode segment here.
Summer 1999 Travels took me to Trinidad and numerous states of the USA, including California, Maryland and Illinois.
Commenced work on my fourth collection of nasheed entitled “Sunshine, Dust and The Messenger”. Producer Trevor Yuile helped me create more intricate harmony arrangements and backing rhythms than my previous recordings. With listeners growing in number and growing in age, the subject matter of my songs also matured. Lyrics tackled the themes of loss, family discord, belonging, consumerism, religious hypocrisy and sectarianism ~ all topics I was struggling to deal with and understand in my own life at the time.
Re-established connection with Yusuf Islam who had (since our first meeting in 1993) advanced his Mountain of Light studio in London, UK and recorded several albums of spiritual/world music. Yusuf had become aware of my work and extended an invitation to be a part of his “A is For Allah” book/CD project. Logistics prohibited me from being involved, but plans were set into motion for several collaborations.
Autumn 1999 Recorded “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” for the documentary film The Orphan Masjids Of Kosova, as well as the choral soundtrack to Kashmir: Paradise Under Siege. See video for “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” here.
December 1999 Studio work began on the Timeless Wisdom Qur’anic recitation series, which included the digital remastering of analogue audio by renowned Egyptian reciter Abdul Basit Abd us-Samad (1927 – 1988).
Winter 2000 Production persisted on the “Timeless Wisdom” series and the “Light Upon Light” compilation album.
Summer/Autumn 2000 While juggling production on multiple recording projects, serving as accountant for a national Canadian cultural organization, and leading two community youth associations, invitations to perform live also piled up. Travels took me to Vancouver BC, Los Angeles CA, Chicago IL and numerous cities throughout Southern Ontario.
January 2001 Friend Abid Quereshi and I recorded “28 Letters (The Arabic Alphabet Song)” for the children’s video Alif Is For Allah. Watch video here.
Yusuf Islam’s “Bismillah”, compilation was released internationally, featuring my songs “Bismillah”, “Allah Ta’la” and “Alhamdulillah”
February 2001 Appeared in a Vision TV (Canada) mini-series on sacred music entitled Soul Music.
Bill Kocher and I decided to pull our new writings together into an album which would seek to unite various artists of differing faith traditions through song. Supportive of the idea, Yusuf Islam offered to contribute un-released songs toward the project, Sound Vision agreed to back the recording for mainstream distribution, Trevor Yuile agreed to produce the tracks and the album “Vacuous Waxing” was set into pre-production.
April 2001 First United Kingdom tour of performances, lectures, media interviews and recording. The lengthy trip took me to numerous schools and community events in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and the greater London area. Several days were also spent at Yusuf Islam’s Mountain of Light studio, where I had the pleasure of meeting South African singer Zain Bhikha for the first time. Yusuf, Zain and I bonded quickly and set to work, recording tracks for Zain’s “Faith” album and fleshing out a song of mine entitled “The Prophet’s Hands”.
May 2001 “Sunshine, Dust and The Messenger” was released and distributed within North America and the UK by Sound Vision. Mountain of Light handled distribution in Europe, South Africa and Australasia.
July 2001 Bill Kocher and I recorded demos for “Vacuous Waxing” album. Work was also started on the embellishemnet and digital re-mastering of “A Treasury of Islamic Tales”, a series of audio books for children, originally recorded in the mid 1980’s at Yusuf Islam’s London studio and produced by the Islamic Foundation of UK. Somehow during the month, I also managed to produce sound effects and a midi musical soundtrack for an educational video game called “Abu Saleh”, released throughout North America and the UK.
August 2001 “Timeless Wisdom Volumes 1 & 2” and the compilation album “Light Upon Light” were completed for release in North America and the UK by Sound Vision.
September 11, 2001 The tragic events of 9/11 occurred. Peace and justice advocates around the world spoke out to denounce religious extremism in any form. Media, schools, universities and faith communities reached out to me in bridge-building efforts and I tried my best to provide better understanding about Qur’anic traditions and teachings in whatever way I could.
Autumn 2001 Zain Bhikha’s album “Faith” was released, featuring “Wonderful World” and “Glory Be To Allah”, recorded earlier in spring.
November 26, 2001 Recording begins at Studio A for the “Vacuous Waxing” album.