Shani talks about "WE HEAR YOUR VOICE" project


Shani Rigsbee (Shani) is a woman with convictions. Beautiful, feisty, a force of nature, and a remarkable achiever, and a cancer survivor. she is currently at the red-hot epicenter of a rising power pack of new American stars that are equally at ease producing, directing on stage and screen, in acting and in recorded music. Whether singing in her native language of English or fluently in French, Farsi, Arabic, Spanish or Italian, Shani has left many people shocked to know that her roots are American, actually from Bill Clinton’s hometown – Hot Springs, Arkansas and not from the outer reaches of the globe. She plays to sold-out venues all over the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, Russia and the Middle East. Her touring schedule regularly includes locales rarely if ever performed in by American–based artists such as Armenia, Uzbekistan, and cities Tashkent, Samarghand, and in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, amongst others, spreading her universal message of love and joy. In the United States, she has played for the last five years to critical acclaim at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, as well as the prestigious Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and large scale venues in Las Vegas.

Shani was inspired to write We Hear your Voice after she read on the internet that people in conflicting war zones were reaching out to each other (Israelis to Palestinians and Iranians and vice versa, for instance) saying that they do not agree with their governments calling for war and they the people only wanted peace. Thus We hear Your Voice was born.

“We Hear Your Voice was originally debuted in 2012 before a live audience at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre to a 5 minute standing ovation. Soon after, the artists were invited to perform the song for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a major peace concert with some of the world’s biggest musical talents. After three years of determined diligence and coordination, the charity single and music video of “We Hear Your Voice is ready to be released by Cherokee music on March 18, 2014. It is important to note the single was especially hard to assemble with the Israeli and Palestinian stars, particularly since the Arab artists had received so many threats for their contribution, but the message of the music was so important to all the stars , they eagerly participated.
(May 3rd, 2014 SHANI will be performing in Concert with International Star, ANDY at THE DOLBY THEATRE in Hollywood where WE HEAR YOUR VOICE will be reprised.)

Bijan Tehrani:  Please tell us about the latest projects that you are working on and the music video and the making of the project that you are dealing with.
Shani Rigsbee: The most recent release that I am dealing with, is called, we hear your voice, it is an humanitarian project that basically highlights some of the world’s greatest singers and icons from many regions around the world and the project was basically to create an alliance of people standing side by side and creating a message of unity. Concept and something that really had not been done effectively, Icons form different countries were actually working together in their own regions but had not been heard in other regions and we thought that this was an amazing way through music to show this universal message and the second part of that is that we decided to donate the proceeds of the song to international children’s charities.

Bijan:  How far are you into the project and when will the project be released?
Shani:  We officially released the song around the world, at the more well-known outlets, like itune and Amazon, where they have kind of an international reach and we have released a music video and it is available online and on television and it is available on various entertainment networks and just in general it has  wide release now. And we are completing a “behind the scenes / making of” sort of short form documentary, mini-documentary if you will.  It is about twenty-five to thirty minute long and this is basically containing footage of the artist recording sessions and some strategic interviews that they did and we also performed the song live in front of  a live audience at the Greek theater in Los Angeles and about a year and a half ago. The short film shows that these were all the things that we did along the way to create this project and it details the song’s journey and how it was inspired and conceived and ultimately what the plans are in going forward with it.

Bijan:  How did you come up with the idea of this project?
Shani: Well the words, we hear your voice, are kind of a metaphor, on one hand we hear your voice was a phrase that just kind of came to me when I was paying to attention to social media and I was watching how people in different parts of the world, were going through different struggles or dyer times.  And I was very inspired by seeing people in different parts of the world communicating with this technology we have now. Now we are able to reach out to people in different parts of the world with a touch of a button and when people are going through difficult times it helps to know that you are not alone and that you are being heard and that goes a long way because you can feel very alone when you are going through a rough time and it is hard enough, but not feeling like anyone cares is just another part of that pain.  So I was very inspired to see how people were reaching out and communicating in this way and the second part of that is in saying we hear your voice –  the singers themselves are very representational of their land and in some cases they are probably called the voice of their people and the pride of their people and those types of things and I just thought it would be a really unique turnaround and let them give back as the voice of their people and let others know that we know that our country and our people are at the core good people and are trying to connect with the rest of the world.  And with music I think we can do that, so I think it just really represented a few different things with the statement, “We Hear Your Voice”

Bijan: Who are some of the different artists involved with this project?
Shani: There are many artist on board and I can name them all one by one if you like, but there are about 15 people that worked on it, and it is hard for me to name one name without naming all of the names, but I can quickly say for you Ana Victoria from Mexico, Andy who is an Armenian-Persian artist and Ehsan Aman from Afghanistan, Kenny Aronoff, who is one of the world’s most popular and respected drummers, Sung Bong Choi from Korea, Morris Hayes-  the keyboard player, who’s played for years with Prince and The New Power Generation, Ishtar the lead singer of Alabina who lives in France, Liel Kolet from Israel, Momo Loudiyi from Morocco, Sono Nigam from India, Igor Nikolaev who is a very well-known and respected composer from Russia, Naser Musa who is Palestinian from Jordan, Tim Pierce who is one of the music industry’s top guitarist, Jahan Raymond who is a twelve year old piano virtuoso and myself. There were also several Top music industry producers who loaned their support in different ways in the song’s journey:  K.C. Porter, Don Was, Tom Weir and Phil Ramone.

Bijan:  How challenging was this project?
Shani: It was unbelievably challenging, I don’t know how to explain really that it took more than three years to do when sometimes people see that a movie is shot and delivered within a year sometimes.  The reason why this was so difficult was because each and every one of these people are in different countries and not only are they in different countries but they are touring so there was a constant struggle in terms of trying to get availability.  I myself work a lot and tour a lot so I would have windows where I had one month and I was in town and I could be in the studio and every-time I would receive information from an artist I would then have to go into the recording studio and work through it and edit through it and piece by piece, try to find the pieces of the puzzle and make them fit.  And we also had the filming aspects and we weren’t always getting everything at the same time, sometimes we were only getting the audio and the video bits would come later. Sometimes we were fortunate enough to have the artist come into Los Angeles into a studio where I could be and I would find out that they would be coming in two months and I would wait and then it would get rescheduled into something else.  You then have your heart set on certain people and you don’t want to put the project out without having the people you wanted represented because we basically have all of these major countries in terms of population like India and Russia for example, we needed to have them represented and I needed them in the project it was just a question of coordination and patience really.

Bijan:  Tell me a little bit about meeting the Dalai Lama.
Shani: That was  one of the highlights of my life and career, after we performed the song in Los Angeles, not long after that we were given an invitation to come and participate in something called the One World Peace concert in Syracuse, NY, it took place at Syracuse  University and it was broadcast live on AXS TV.   So we were invited to come and perform the song for him and a concert audience for about 18,000 people and for all of the artists involved in that concert, it was so humbling to see people that I have grown up watching throughout my life, I remember specifically, I don’t think she would mind, but Whoopie Goldberg for example, was there,as well. Backstage we had a private audience with him and we were able to meet him and take pictures with him and it was just a really fascinating experience for all of us Had this project never come about I would not have had this experience just on a personal level.

Bijan:  Tell us about the film project that you are involved with.
Shani: I have several movies in preparation, one I have just completed which is called “Guardian Angel” and I was actually in the producing team in that one and I am also in the movie. I did the theme song for it also with Andy, the Armenian-Persian Artist, we just completed post production on it. The film has a very mixed cast, we have Americans, Iranians and Armenians.  It features some great people and a great storyline that has an interesting set-up. I also have a movie that we are setting up right now, which is based on the life of Kiran Bedi  who is considered one of the female Gandhi – type personalities in India.  IT is still in development and it will be an international crossover project that we adapting from her book; there are always several things in the works that I would love to talk about as they come to fruition.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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