This is my first recording, released back in 2000 under the artist name Ali Ibn Musa. The United Nations had declared a decade of peace for the children of the world to kick off the new millenium, and I was innocently but determinedly imagining peace. My playing and approach to expressing my world view may be a bit more sophisticated now than they were on these old recordings, but the songs and their messages remain timeless, just as dead-on today as they were back then. And the CD still is, as it was then, so easy to listen to that people play it repeatedly, often until it wears out.
"Truthful words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not truthful," according to Lao Tsu. "That's because truth and beauty are opposite faces of the same coin," according to Boundless Gratitude. "The coin is something that I call musical storytelling, and that other folks call folk music or just plain music," BG adds. "So if you like your truthful words delivered beautifully, come on out and hear me play sometime."
Boundless Gratitude sings ballads, usually to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar, and has been described as a griot, a troubadour and a balladeer. About half of the songs that he sings are original and about half are songs from popular, folk, jazz, classical and other traditions. Listeners often compliment his “arrangements” of memorable songs, even though he doesn’t consciously do arrangements. Billie Holliday didn’t do arrangements either. “If you find a tune and it has something to do with you… you just feel it,” she wrote in Lady Sings the Blues. “And when you sing it, other people can feel something too.”
BG's first "gig" was a Black History Month children’s storytime at a bookstore in Fremont, CA, in 2000. In the summer of that same year, he traveled to Washington D.C., to play during an interfaith peace vigil, and also traveled to Los Angeles, CA, to participate in a Children's Storytelling for Peace program. He also produced and released "Musical Storytelling by Ali Ibn Musa" the first of several do-it-yourself (DIY) CDs. In 2007, a final and much-enhanced version of the “Black Ink” musical story that BG told in his first gig was released (after innumerable revisions) in a DIY 2-CD set entitled, “How Paper and Ink Came Together and Survived to Sing About It.”
From 2000 to 2001, BG co-hosted a singer-songwriter open mic at the Freight and Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley, CA. And from 2003 to 2008, he co-hosted a poetry and music open mic at the Berkeley Art Center. In February 2008, he launched a new open mic for composers and performers of original music at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda, CA. From 2003 through 2005, he provided musical storytelling at a number of community gatherings that included health and safety fairs and Black History Month and Kwanzaa celebrations, as well as several late evening performances for and with the multi-talented staff at Harbin Hot Springs near Middletown, CA. In September 2004 he released his "Homeland Security by Hajb the Mad Poet" CD.
A particularly memorable evening late in 2005, brought the opportunity for Boundless Gratitude to perform one of his signature songs, “A Black Man’s Prayer” during a Katrina fundraiser at La Pena in Berkeley, CA. The lyrics from that performance were published in 2006 by Jukebox Press in "Words Upon the Waters: A Poetic Response to Hurricane Katrina by Bay Area Writers and Artists." The name Boundless Gratitude came from one of BG's musical stories about his ancestral heritage and from a dream described in the liner notes of his "Storming the Castle to Free My Lady" CD, released in 2006.
2006 and 2007 brought a number of challenging and rewarding performance opportunities that included an outdoor wedding in Walnut Creek, an environmental fundraiser at a winery in Castro Valley, a program to address family violence in Richmond, CA, an outdoor “Green Soulfest” in West Oakland, and an elder care center in Daly City. Those years have also brought a flood of new music and innovative interpretations that continue to grow and flourish. In 2008 and 2009, BG released his Acoustic Nectar, Acoustic Light and Acoustic Flight CDs, all of which, along with Storming the Castle to Free My Lady, Homeland Security and a reissue of Musical Storytelling, are available on CD Baby.
Boundless Gratitude was christened at birth with the Muslim name Hassaun Ali Jones-Bey in a Nazarene church in Brooklyn, NY, where he grew up in a West Indian household in a Jewish neighborhood. Such spiritually and culturally diverse beginnings effectively laid the foundation for a richly diverse life, hence the name Boundless Gratitude.