Nordic Devotion: An Interview with Refuge

Refuge is the wonderful musical outcome of a group of friends and musicians in Finland, who came together to record an album inspired by the Holy Writings of the Baha’i Faith.

The majority of songs are in English but there are a few in Finish as well. This truly beautiful and inspirational album really swept me off my feet when I first heard it.

I decided to catch up with Elina Kuitunen and Mea Karvonen, two of the members of Refuge to find out more about this wonderful album and initiative.

Baha’i Blog: So tell me a little about how the group Refuge was born and why you came together.

Mea: Refuge started with Elina Kuitunen, a singer-songwriter, who put Baha’i Writings to music and sang them at different occasions. Later, Aram Aflatuni and I started playing with her. And then, Elina and I became flatmates and, as a result, we started making more music together. Together with Aram, we started talking about making an album, and he offered to produce it. Later on, guitarist Nader Aflatuni, bass player Dile Kolanen, and sound engineer Joonatan Kuisma came along and things really started to happen.

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me briefly about the album and why you decided to do it?

Elina: Refuge is the result of a long process, where we’ve tried our best to combine two very different and dynamic forces: that of music and the truly soul-stirring power of the Holy Writings. Obviously, there’s no formula for how to do this! So, we’ve just had to try our best to balance these two, both with freshness and dignity. I think we wanted to make this album because we’ve been granted the gift of music and it became important to use it in promotion of the greatest of gifts we’ve ever received, the Baha’i Faith. We’re very delighted to be able to offer a total of eleven tracks, now available to all of you!

Baha’i Blog: Is there a lot of Baha’i music in Finland, and why is this album important for both the Baha’i and wider community?

Elina: There’s definitely a need for this sort of music in Finland – especially for prayers sung in Finnish! Let’s hope one day we’ll be able to offer more songs in Finnish, but for now, three of our songs are in Finnish while most are in English. So for all of you who are not exactly fluent in Finnish, worry not, just consider the Finnish songs as special exotic treats!

Mea: Music is music and the quotations are beautiful no matter what language you use to sing them.

Elina: I think music is one way of teaching the Faith and introducing its beauty to a variety of people. It’s our hope that the music will inspire and attract people – both Baha’is, and those interested in the Faith – to approach, read and study the Writings, in order to find what they have in store for them.

Baha’i Blog: The CD also comes with a beautiful little book of Baha’i quotations and Nordic photography. Why did the group decide to do this and why was this an important addition to the album?

Mea: Since the beginning of this project, we decided that the Holy Writings should be the center around which all our creativity revolves around. When it came to the layout of the CD, we wanted to give proper attention to the Words inspiring the music. We wanted people to have the chance to go back to the Writings and reflect on them. Hence a beautiful booklet that could be read while listening to our music. It could also be given as a gift to friends.

Elina: The booklet became a work of art on its own really.

Baha’i Blog: What effect do you hope this album will have on others, and what do you hope listeners will feel after hearing the album?

Mea: We hope people will feel spiritually uplifted after hearing our album.

Elina: And we hope they tell all their friends about it too! But on a more serious note, we hope people will feel inspired to find exciting ways to use their own gifts and talents to create beauty everywhere and render service. Yeah, that’d be great!

Mea: Yeah, it would be wonderful if our album could also encourage other aspiring Baha’i artists to make more music.

Baha’i Blog: Does the group have any future plans?

Elina: Well, I’m in Vanuatu on a year of service now… so that’s my plan for now!

Mea: This has been sort of a one-off project that we all came together to do, and at the time we didn’t have any plans for the future. Even then we all lived in different places – apart from Elina and I who lived VERY close then – but these connections have been made and friendships formed, and we really enjoyed working together!

Elina: So we’re hopeful that our creative paths will have the chance to cross again in the future! We’d love to work together again!

Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to be interviewed and please thank and congratulate everyone in the group for making such a beautiful album.

You can purchase a digital version of the album via: http://refugemusic.bandcamp.com, or to order a physical copy, you can contact Refuge directly on the Refuge Facebook Page.

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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