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A third generation Canadian with Scottish and British roots,
Dawud (David) Wharnsby-Ali was born and raised in Southern, Ontario. Hints that
his creative side was stronger than his will to apply himself academically
surfaced early during Wharnsby's school years, where he spent long hours writing
stories and drawing cartoons which were not part of class curriculum.
Determined not to lose his love for expression as he grew into his teens,
Whansby transferred his child-hood loves of drawing and role-playing into the
areas of photography and the dramatic arts. As his theatre, music, and writing
experience became more and more refined, interest in his own spirituality and
purpose in life also intensified. A headstrong teenager, who always chose to
`wing it' on high school exams, Wharnsby became increasingly focused on personal
studies of diverse scriptures and holy books. At 18, following his shaky
graduation from High School, Wharnsby's true personal quest for education,
direction and artistic freedom began.
Independently minded and somewhat introverted, Wharnsby spent extended nights
writing, listening to music, and absorbing books of Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist
literature. Gradually his spiritual identity developed and matured alongside his
craft of composing poetry and song. Within a year, Wharnsby taught himself to
play a variety of musical instruments and blended his introspective lyrics with
his simple yet distinctive voice. He soon began to network with other young
Canadian musicians and songwriters, performing at intimate clubs, coffeehouses,
universities, and folk festivals.
In 1991 Wharnsby began to devoted himself to a diverse array of activities,
working as a puppeteer and children's educator, a traveling troubadour and a
personal health care assistant for the physically disabled. His zeal for travel
and exploration often found him spontaneously taking extended hikes, walking for
days, weeks and sometimes months through parts of Canada, the U.S. and the
United Kingdom. Fascinated with birth, death, faith, the occult and his Celtic
roots, Wharnsby's songs and writings became a reflection of his continued
interest in eastern philosophy and spirituality.
Strongly recognizable musical and theological influences found their way into
his experimental expressions. The diversity of musical artists such as Jane
Sibbery, Laura Nyro, Cat Stevens, Phil Ochs, Natalie Merchant and Pete Townshend
were all evident in his musical ramblings, while concepts from the Tao-Te Ching,
the Qur'an, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Dhammapada provided subtle foundations to
his lyrics and poetry.
Individually, and as part of a musical folk duo with vocalist Heather Chappell,
Wharnsby participated in the production and limited release of several
recordings. In 1992 he created an independent label, distributing a collection
of traditional acoustic songs ("Off To Reap The Corn"), as well as a book of
original sketches and poetry entitled "Field Tromping". Social gatherings,
performances and expectations quickly increased. Often frustrated by bouts of
extreme stage-fright and generally uncomfortable in crowds, Wharnsby was torn
between the competitive nature of the music circles he had stumbled into, and
his private quest for peace and contentment.
After three years of intensive music, theater, travel and personal study, Dawud
participating in the production of "Fine Flowers In The Valley" (1994) with
Chappell, then suspended his musical involvement to focus more seriously on the
education of children and efforts to increase his knowledge of Islamic
spirituality. Inspired by the experience of a pilgrimage to the ancient Arabian
cities of Mecca and Medinah in 1995, Dawud began to experiment with new styles
of music - merging the Celtic/folk styles of his upbringing with sounds and
embellishments of the Middle East.
In 1996 he recorded and released "A Whisper Of Peace", a collection of
motivational and educational songs for children, which was followed closely by a
second recording entitled "The Colours Of Islam" (1998). Built upon simple a
capella voices, with lyrics drawing directly from Qur'anic concepts and sayings
of the 6th century prophet Muhammad - Alayhi Salaam, Wharnsby-Ali's new
recordings combine elements of his past musical influences with his love of
children, nature and continued spiritual development.
In 1998 Wharnsby-Ali joined Chicago based multimedia organization Sound
Vision.Com as an educational consultant and full-time audio director, assisting
in the production of over 15 documentaries and children's programs since that
time. Other internationally recognized audio works by Wharnsby-Ali include "Road
To Madinah" (1999), "The Letter - Songs Of Struggle And Hope" (1999) and
"Sunshine, Dust and The Messenger" (2001). Distribution of Wharnsby-Ali's most
recent material is difficult to gage. In true folk song tradition, his writings
have taken on a life of their own - spreading far beyond official marketing
territories by way of a bootleg industry which circulates his recordings
unofficially and uncontrollably throughout the world - with extensive radio air
play in parts of Africa and the Far East.
In recent years, Wharnsby-Ali has expanded his efforts in the areas of
multi-media by networking with other artists around the world, encouraging youth
to exercise their spirituality and creativity through the arts. The recently
released "Light Upon Light" compilation (produced by Wharnsby-Ali last year)
introduces the talents of vibrant young artists from across North America,
including Canadian writers Irfan Makki and Shireen Patel, among others. Several
of Wharnsby-Ali's up-coming releases feature long-awaited collaborative works
with the likes of Yusuf Islam, Zain Bhikha and U.K. based vocal group Shaam.
Wharnsby-Ali currently resides in Canada, where in addition to his work with
Sound Vision.Com, he also oversees an Islamic Information Service, directing
several study groups and youth discussion circles in Southern Ontario. Wharnsby-Ali
travels extensively throughout the world and, although he still shuns public
concerts and live performances of his songs, he is frequently called upon to
address gatherings of all ages with his motivational lectures and social