J. Ralph Unveils Music Video For Oscar-Shortlisted ‘The Voice Of Dust And Ash’ Song Performed With Norah Jones Watch

J. Ralph has debuted the music video for “Dust & Ash” — his original tune penned for the documentary The Voice of Dust and Ash, which has been shortlisted for the Best Original Song Oscar in 2023.

The feature directorial debut of Iranian-American filmmaker Mandana Biscotti tells the incredible story of the monumental artist and humanitarian, Maestro Mohammad Reza Shajarian. When Iran’s ayatollah banned music and performances in the entire country, instruments and records became contraband, and artists were exiled, imprisoned and executed. While the government crushed human rights and self-expression, Shajarian risked everything to confront the regime, singing truth to power and uniting the country in a chorus of millions strong.

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While Ralph alone wrote the song “Dust & Ash,” he performs on the track with nine-time Grammy winner Norah Jones and Shajarian’s daughter, Mojgan. The original idea was to have Maestro Shajarian himself sing on the track, though he tragically passed away before it could be completed, with his daughter’s presence in his place reflecting a passing of the proverbial torch by the man once considered “the Voice of Iran.”

Mojgan Shajarian solos at the crescendo of “Dust & Ash,” in what is not just a creative choice but a response to gender dynamics in Iran, where to this day, solo female artists are forbidden to record or perform publicly. (It was this same act, in fact, that resulted in her being exiled from the country.)

“”Dust & Ash” was written to honor [Maestro Shajarian’s] life’s work and to support the people of Iran with a hymn of solidarity. As “Dust & Ash” plays as the finale of the film over an animated sequence of never before seen footage of Iran, it is central to the film’s narrative,” said Ralph. “As speech and lyrics are extremely censored in the country, the lyrics are visually presented on screen, front and center as the climax of the film. The chorus of the song incorporates Shajarian’s message from the 2009 human rights protests, when the President of Iran referred to the protesters as “merely dust and ash” to which Shajarian boldly and publicly responded, “then I am voice of dust and ash.””

While Jones and Mojgan Shajarian are newcomes to the Academy Awards, J. Ralph is a three-time Oscar nominee previously recognized by the Film Academy for his songs penned for the films Jim: The James Foley Story, Racing Extinction and Chasing Ice. (He shared the nom for Jim with Sting, sharing the recognition for Racing Extinction with Anohni.) The composer, singer-songwriter, music producer and social activist is the only artist in history to score multiple Original Song noms for his work on documentaries.

Oscar nominations voting opens today and continues through January 17, with noms to be unveiled on January 24. The awards ceremony itself will take place on March 12. Watch the music video for “Dust & Ash” by clicking above.

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