A Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian walk into a concert hall…
What may be mistaken for a stand-up comedian’s opening line is actually Abraham Jam, a trio of internationally-renowned musicians who have teamed up to create art strengthened by diversity.
Abraham Jam–composed of Billy Jonas, David LaMotte, and Dawud Wharnsby–features three “brothers” from the three Abrahamic faiths. Jonas, LaMotte and Wharnsby have performed extensively over the last few decades in their individual careers. They came together and recently announced a special one-night concert that will take place on Saturday, August 26, at Asheville Masonic Temple. The trio say there is an album in the works and the Masonic Temple show will kick off extensive touring.
“Harmony is better than unity,” says David LaMotte, who helped create Abraham Jam. “We don’t have to be singing the same note to cultivate peace, we can sing different notes that are beautiful together.” LaMotte is a well-loved songwriter, with over 3000 concerts on five continents and every state in the U.S. on his musical resumé.
They don’t just take turns sharing songs, but create music together, contributing vocal harmonies, percussion, and instrumentation to each other’s songs.
The band originally formed in 2010. LaMotte, who was working with the North Carolina Council of Churches at the time, came up with the concept as a goal to form interfaith respect and cooperation. He approached campus Jewish, Muslim, and Christian student organizations in the area and put together an interfaith student committee that chose which musicians would be involved, as well as the name of the band. Abraham Jam was originally formed with Dan Nichols, an accomplished Jewish musician. Their first concert was at Duke University. Later, Billy Jonas replaced Nichols, which was an amicable transition for the trio.
Jonas is well known in Asheville and around the country as an accomplished percussionist, guitar player, pianist, and songwriter, with infectiously whimsical songs and a knack for inspiring audiences to join in.
“What a privilege to play and harmonize with two world-class musicians, who have polished the lenses of their different faiths so beautifully,” says Billy Jonas. “I learn so much each time!”
Dawud Wharnsby, the third member of Abraham Jam, is a Canadian-born poet, songwriter and artist. He began sharing his songs with audiences as a street performer in his late teens. Today, Wharnsby’s career includes fifteen solo albums, numerous soundtrack credits and collaborations, and five poetry anthologies.
“For thousands of years, in villages spread out around the world, song was a way for common people to share and pass along their stories,” explains Dawud Wharnsby. “Today, when we’re so interconnected through travel and technology, it is important that we also communicate. We need to sing our world’s ongoing story together.”
Since their first concert at Duke University, Abraham Jam has performed for the Festival of the Sacred Arts in Michigan, and for the 2016 Parliament of World Religions in Utah, among other events and venues.