Ali Youssefi creates music that goes straight to the heart. You may be familiar with his collaborative music videos, especially his wonderful song called “Unite”, which includes 50 voices from around the world and which continues to be extremely popular!
Ali was also critical in helping us film Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions in Belgrade, Serbia (where he was living at the time), and from these sessions you can watch him singing “Jedinstvo (Unity)” in Serbian, and “Oh Mi Siervo (O My Servant)” in Spanish.
I was so excited to hear about Ali’s latest global musical collaboration called “Waves”! Featuring over 400 singers and instrumentalists from 38 countries and territories across the globe, “Waves” is a happy celebration of the unified diversity of the human race. Have you watched it? It never fails to make me smile, and I had to get in touch with my dear friend to find out more about his new initiative. Here’s what he shared:
Baha’i Blog: Hi, Ali. Can you tell us a little about the song and the video, how many people were involved, and other details of this initiative?
This project was an absolute joy to work on! In the end it involved over 430 people! I chose this beautiful quote by Abdu’l-Baha:
“Make us as waves of the sea, as flowers of the garden, united, agreed through the bounties of Thy love…make all mankind as stars shining from the same height of glory, as perfect fruits growing upon Thy tree of life…”
I felt that this quote, as many others, had an inherent melody to it. As I worked on it, the melody that emerged was very joyful, almost a celebration, and it immediately asked to be sung by many people. I taught the song to my dear friends in the community of Fresno where I was living at the time. It was a bit of a rough start, because I myself wasn’t too sure what everyone’s role would be, but the more we sang it, the clearer it became. I also reached out to my good friend Michael Gannon, who is an amazing musician living in Nashville, and told him of the plan to make this a collaboration involving many friends around the world. He immediately gave me some ideas and added some parts that I loved. It started taking shape.
Baha’i Blog: You have produced several collaborative videos. What made you decide to do this sort of video again, and was there anything different this time in making it happen?
Nothing feels more powerful to me than when many voices come together in song. I believe it is a mysterious and spiritual force. Many years ago I composed a song called “Unite” with the intention of having other friends sing along for a meeting I was asked to play for. The more I sang this song in meetings, gatherings, and conferences, the more it seemed the friends learned the song and it resonated with it. The more friends joined in, the more power these words seemed to evoke, and the more the message seeped into my own being.
Since then, one of my biggest passions and callings has been to compose some songs specifically thinking of large numbers of friends joining in, adding their voices, adding their spirits to the power of the message the words convey, in the hopes that this message may spread far and wide and permeate the hearts of those who hear it.
For “Unite”, I myself recorded the participant’s voices and filmed them singing it as I travelled to different parts of the world. “Waves” was much different: I made an open invitation to anyone around the world interested in participating, so each participant sent me their video and voice recording within the given timeframe. There were a couple of shots that I filmed from Baha’i Summer Schools in Norway and the Canary Islands back in 2019 where I was invited to participate as a musical guest. Since I was physically there I was able to teach them the song and had the pleasure of filming/recording them myself.
When I finally finished filming “Unite” I had 50 friends participate including 4 musicians from different parts of the world. Subsequent projects saw the participation of more and more friends, and for this last project we were blessed with the participation of more than 430 friends from 38 countries and territories and 13 musicians! We look forward to seeing how these projects might continue to grow in the future, reflecting more and more the wonderful skills and beautiful diversity of humanity.
Baha’i Blog: What goes into doing something like this, and how long did it take?
Every project seems to be a bit different when it comes to timing. This one in particular seemed to need a bit of time to grow and evolve for all the pieces to come together, and that process took more or less two years. And I’m glad we had the patience to wait for it to get there. This project definitely would not have been the same without the contributions of all the friends from around the world who added their beautiful voices. And I have to make a very special mention of all the amazing musicians from around the world who volunteered their time and their skills: Shango Dely from Spain on percussion, Ruben Gilje from Norway on piano, Gustave Wayenece from New Caledonia on the bass guitar, Pierre Weber from Kosovo on piano, Mehdi Rezvan from Estonia on percussion, Nabil Fazel from the UK on percussion, Michael Gannon from the US on backing vocals and slide guitar, Mary-Beth Nickel also from the US with the Native American flute, Eve Matin from Spain playing harp, Heiko Bärnholdt from Norway on the upright bass, Gwendolyn Philbrow from the Faroe Islands on cello, Vibeke Søe Horsberg from Norway on the violin, and last but very much not least, Red Grammer from the US who was gracious enough to participate with his vocals in part of the song. I was so blessed to have all these wonderful friends from so many different places, with different musical backgrounds and experiences, bring their unique sound to the song and make it into something it could have not been otherwise.
Other than that, it just requires a lot of flexibility, patience, and a vision of what it can become for both the song as well as the video. The video was a bit challenging to create as it took a tremendous amount of processing power on the computers, working with over a hundred moving clips at the same time is extremely technologically demanding. Lots of patience and lessons learned there!
Baha’i Blog: Do you work with a team, what are some of the lessons you have learned?
For the past three years, I have been extremely blessed to have my dear wife, Shadi, join me in working on this and many other projects. Whether it’s videography, editing, artwork design — she brings a wonderful fresh perspective and creative eye. Every project we take on brings with it new demands and challenges, so we are both constantly forced to learn, on a daily basis! But we do it happily!
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope viewers will walk away with after they listened to and watched the video?
Just like everyone has something to contribute to beautify a song such as this, we all have something to add to beautify this world, and the more we learn to collaborate, communicate and work together, appreciating everyone else’s contributions, we cannot even fathom the beauty and positive change that will be produced in the world.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I would love for these projects to continue growing, to have larger and larger groups of friends joining in, so stay tuned for the next world collaboration project! You can subscribe to my Youtube channel and also sign up for my mailing list (www.aliyoussefi.com/mailinglist) to make sure you don’t miss the invitation to participate, and to be informed of new releases.
Sharing projects like this with the world and composing more music and videos is something my wife and I are very passionate about. We hope to continue devoting our energy to it. We’d love it if you wanted to check out my Patreon page (www.patreon.com/aliyoussefi), where you can contribute to help keep us focused on this path, if that’s something that’s available to you.
We hope to see you in the next Global Collaboration!
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so very much, Ali, for taking the time to share this with us, and for all your wonderful music!
You can watch “Waves” below: