The “Create in me a pure heart” prayer by Baha’u’llah has long been one of my favourite prayers for spiritual growth. Whenever I read this prayer, my mind is drawn to the beauty of its imagery, and regardless of how I was feeling when I began reading the prayer, I begin to feel a profound tranquility.
Luke Slott’s beautiful musical rendition of this prayer is befitting and always reminds me of one of my favourite lines from the prayer: “Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquility on me”. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that Luke’s rendition of Create in Me a Pure Heart is merely part of a larger project: an album of devotional music! (Not to mention the beautiful album artwork by Shirin Sahba!)
I decided to catch up with Luke to find out more about his devotional album, his future plans, as well as his thoughts on being a Baha’i musician.
Baha’i Blog: So tell us a bit more about yourself and how you started making music.
When I was 12 years old, my father, who was a jazz trumpet player, gave me a gift of one of his trumpets and started giving me lessons. After about a year of teaching me at home, my dad insisted that I get a classical music education at an established institute. So I enrolled for trumpet lessons at the College of Music & Drama in Dublin. Around the same time, I started taking piano lessons at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and guitar lessons with a local teacher. In my teens, I started writing songs and for a few years I played in a rock band with some school friends.
Baha’i Blog: You recently released a devotional CD, “Create in Me a Pure Heart”. What motivated you to make this album and what was it like working on it?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Setting the Baha’i Writings to music is a wonderful way to connect with the words. It’s also an excellent exercise in song-writing because you have to try to create melodies that complement the natural rhythm and feeling of the words.
Making recordings of the Baha’i Writings is a huge privilege. It creates a feeling of sacredness in the recording studio. Recording Create in Me a Pure Heart was immensely uplifting. The CD has also been a fantastic tool for sharing the Faith with others. There’s a quote of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá where He says that the Teachings of God are like water and that music is like a glass. When you put the water into a glass, it makes it easier to offer to people.
Baha’i Blog: What has the response been like so far?
The response has been so positive. As a working musician, I was a little bit apprehensive about releasing a record that is explicitly religious. I certainly wanted to do it personally, but I wasn’t expecting the public to receive it so well.
As it is so often, however, my fears were just in my head. Even my atheist friends are enjoying these devotional songs and that makes me feel really honored to have been able to make it.
Baha’i Blog: Do you have any plans to make more Baha’i albums?
I’m currently working on another devotional record which will be released at Naw Ruz (21st March) 2012.
Baha’i Blog: What about plans for commercial albums? What are your long term professional plans?
On October 1st 2011, I’ll be releasing a single called ‘A Few Honest Words’ along with a few B-sides. (For the next few weeks, I’m giving away 1000 free downloads of an ‘acoustic version’ of that song from www.lukeslott.com.) I’m also working on a full-length commercial album, which will most likely be released in late 2012.
Baha’i Blog: I know you have plans to begin a tour of musical firesides in commemoration of the travels of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Tell us more about that! Where do you plan to go and what has motivated you to do this?
I love being on the road. I felt like the centenary of the travels of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would be a really inspiring time to travel around doing musical presentations of the Faith. I’ll be touring around the UK for the month of October and then I’ll spend most of 2012 touring around the US. My UK tour coincides with the release of my new single so I’m trying to see everything as one – work, service, music, traveling, teaching the Faith – instead of separating them.
Baha’i Blog: What’s your favourite quote from the Writings about music and the arts?
“They who recite the verses of the All-Merciful in the most melodious of tones will perceive in them that with which the sovereignty of earth and heaven can never be compared. From them they will inhale the divine fragrances of My worlds – worlds which today none can discern save those who have been endowed with vision through this sublime, this beauteous Revelation. Say: These verses draw hearts that are pure unto those spiritual worlds that can neither be expressed in words nor intimated by allusions.” – Baha’u’llah
Baha’i Blog: Who are your musical inspirations?
I started off with my dad’s jazz trumpet heroes, Chet Baker and Miles Davis. Then I began to absorb my brother Mike’s hip hop record collection – artists like Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Wu-Tang Clan and De La Soul. Through my piano lessons, I got into classical music and fell in love with the music of Bach, Chopin and Debussy. I love the great film composers, particularly Ennio Morricone and John Williams, and I’ve learnt a lot from listening to great songwriters like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Tom Waits is one of my favourite songwriters ever and Jeff Buckley one of my favourite singers.
Baha’i Blog: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring Baha’i musicians out there?
For me, the most important element of being a Bahá’í musician is to bring the spirit of the Faith to everything you do. When you practice your instrument, aim for excellence. When you write a song, try to make the lyrics meaningful, even if the Faith isn’t mentioned. When you play a concert, consider it as a service to the people you are playing for, hoping in your heart that it touches them in some way and helps them on their path towards God.
Baha’i Blog: Beautifully said, and I’m sure very inspiring for all Baha’is out there, musicians or not! On behalf of the Baha’i Blog team and our readers, I’d like to thank you for the amazing album and to wish you all the best with your future plans!