Unity Jam Features Salman Ahmad and Abraham’s Vision
By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui
Photos by Ras Siddiqui & G. Nasreen
Salman & Samina Global Wellness Initiative (SSGWI) and Abraham’s Vision (AV) join forces with the help of music to help the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan
A unique jam session was held in Palo Alto, California on a very wet and dreary January 17 th night bringing together not just two futuristic organizations but a very diverse community as well, with the Salman & Samina Global Wellness Initiative (SSGWI) and Abraham’s Vision (AV) joining forces with the help of music to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan.
The weather may have been inclement, but inside the Spangenberg Theatre, the warmth was remarkably evident as Muslims, Jews and Christians along with Buddhists, Hindus and people of other faiths swayed to the music of Junoon’s Salman Ahmad with some of his Common Chords ( http://www.commonchordsmusic.com/) partners, Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom along with Mohammad Saleem on tabla and Lou Fenucci on the keyboards.
The evening started off with a moment of silence for the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and for people suffering and rendered homeless from the fallout of terrorism in Pakistan. And on the eve of the birthday celebration of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States, words from the Qur’an, the Bible and Jewish scripture were shared at this event while introducing a movement that can be of benefit for our collective future, namely Abraham’s Vision ( http://www.abrahamsvision.org/).
Salman Ahmad appeared on stage with the band and immediately started off with the name of God in the form of “Allah Hu” leaving some of us who had seen and heard the original from the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahib, misty eyed. The universality of the message of oneness that this Rock-Qawwali seems to generate was not lost to the audience with people of many faiths echoing the singing of “Allah Hu” to the joy of Muslims present. Mutual respect can certainly be a starting point for world peace if practiced across the board.
A Turkish melody with an inclusion of Hasidic music ended up becoming a real Muslim-Jewish effort, followed by “Ali Maula” which inspired many to sway in unison. The ever popular song “Saeein” next metamorphosed into quite a medley, starting off with the Azaan and then later incorporating many of Junoon’s hits including words from Baba Bulleh Shah and “Ghoom” all blending together to produce a rich final product.
Next, a tune dedicated to the Roma or Gypsy’s (Indo-Pak origin) in Europe provided Salman a respite from singing, only to have him return again with Baba Bulleh Shah’s (Salman described him as the original Rock & Roller) Bulleya, the Sufi Saint’s universal message of sharing. Bulleh Shah’s poetry, for the lack of a better introduction is the Punjabi Soul at its best.
A catchy Yemeni Arabic tune with Elizabeth Schwartz on vocals also entertained us and Salman’s “Lal Meri Pat-Mast Qalandar” next got many people up from their seats and dancing. It is interesting how this song can still get our people to move. But back to listening, and Yale Strom energetic Pakistani folk tune on his violin received a good response.
Salman Ahmad’s next number started off with “Saqi” (or so we thought) but ended up with a powerful presentation of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, moving the audience and the theme for the night closer than ever to a real Unity Jam. And as words of concern for the children of the Swat Valley closed the show, so did Salman, with Sayonee to top off a fine musical evening.
“ Rock & Roll Jihad” is the title of Salman Ahmad’s new book which was on sale outside the hall. Salman continues to contribute positively to the image of our community here in many ways, and this book effort is another example of his quest to make a difference.
To conclude, it does seem appropriate to mention the unusual nature of this program. This writer was a bit late coming in to work the next morning, but the actual excuse if given would not have been believed. “I was at a Pakistani-Jewish rock concert in Palo Alto last night” as an excuse would just not have worked, even though it was pretty close to the truth. Congratulations are in order to Abraham’s Vision and the Unity Jam team for periodically bringing multi-ethnic and multi-religious youth on to the stage during this event to express their sentiments on the possibility of future peace as an alternative to permanent war between faiths.