June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Guiding Compass is a new album of songs based on the Baha’i Writings and it comes from a group of friends based in the Box Hill suburb of Melbourne, Australia. The album is the result of an organic process of community service projects and activities over the span of more than 10 years in the neighborhood, and the friends involved have called themselves “1ness” (oneness). I got in touch with 1ness, namely Farzam Shabani, Louisa Kwan, Zheng Chen, Davis Takagi, Kenneth Kuo, and William, Mellisa and Charissa Soh, to find out more about the album. They decided to answer my questions collectively and here’s what they shared:
Baha’i Blog: Hi everyone! Can you tell us a little bit about the album and how it came together?
Music has always been at the heart of the Box Hill neighborhood. It has always been a vision to create our first album of original tracks using the Baha’i Writings.
This process is ongoing, there hasn’t really been a start or an end, it is always continuing. So when thinking about how this came together; going back to the early days, being introduced to and learning to sing and play Baha’i songs for the first time on guitar, to playing them in a devotional setting for the first time, to making songs in the park without knowing what we were doing. All these experiences allowed us to build our capacity to bring this album to reality.
We had a bunch of songs written and decided to put it into an album. We hadn’t released an album before, so we decided it was time to give it a shot.
Our vision for Guiding Compass was to draw on the power of the word of God to create uplifting music and share it. Guiding Compass is an album about living a purposeful life. Knowing that there is always a need for a higher power guiding us. Aiming for nobility, having faith, investigating the truth for ourselves to discover a higher purpose to our reality.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something you’ve all learned in the process of getting this done?
We have learnt many things along this process. One main thing we’ve learned is to not let our shortcomings hold us back, and let confirmations guide us.
On a practical level – as with starting most new things – taking the first step is daunting, but breaking the process down into small and manageable steps, and taking the time and effort each day adds up, and that time and patience is worth it. It’s quite hard at first, but then you understand each other’s workflow during the process. Making music can be quite tiring sometimes, so be sure to take breaks, but also focus when it is needed.
Spiritually, we learned that we all don’t have to be superhuman or someone we are not, we just need to learn to be there for others and find our own calling. In spending the time to reflect on the Baha’i Writings, we’ve learned that this process has allowed us to reflect on our higher purpose. It has brought us to the understanding that we are beings who have the capacity to create, not only consume, and share our talents to beautify the world and fulfil our part to be of service to others. We value everyone’s strengths and talents, and we could see the potential in everyone to contribute. Creating an atmosphere where you don’t feel yourself being held back by judgment can unravel potential.
We also learned that music is fundamentally about participation. In the age of Instagram, TikTok and celebrity culture, music has become a consumptive process. By creating this album, we saw that music is truly about collaboration, creation and sharing, a point that can easily be forgotten in the prevailing consumerist zeitgeist. Music is a powerful thing that can unify a community and culture.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope listeners will take away with them after they’ve listened to the album?
We hope listeners can take away honoring the Creative Word, using music as a platform to achieve this. Letting the spirit of the words touch a chord in their soul and discovering spiritual truths.
We also hope that it will inspire others to develop courage, patience and perseverance and joy to create music inspired by the Baha’i Writings.
Baha’i Blog: Do you have any words of advice for anyone else who’s been hoping to do something similar?
Follow your heart and have faith in yourself and others.
Things take time, especially when learning new things, so you definitely need to build the capacity to be patient.
Collaborate with people; it’s so important to look at the bigger picture, what strengths others have which brings out the best in everyone’s abilities. We’re open for collaboration!
Learn how to work with others. You can’t work by yourself forever if you are trying to.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment, perfection comes along in this process as we learn while being involved in this process.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The Box Hill neighborhood friends are no strangers to one another. We call our collaborative neighbourhood group “1ness”, which is for “Oneness”, because the vision of oneness of humanity is binding all of us, and it is expanding! It is a collaborative group effort that embraces all individuals and their talents as we accompany each other to build capacity and serve in a way that is special to us.
We are already creating the second album, using original lyrics inspired by the Bahai Writings, embracing more friends within the Box Hill neighbourhood to contribute their talents and share their fresh ideas and creativity.
This process has been about accompanying one another, learning along the way with unity at the forefront of our goals and aspirations.
After the completion of the first album, friends are now teaching how to play the guitar to junior youth and other friends, with some being inspired to learn new musical instruments and to developing an expertise in studio recording. Some friends have been drawn closer to the Baha’i Faith, and plan to continue to create more music as well as to contribute to the neighbourhood activities.
Baha’i Blog: That’s great! Congratulations on this album, and we look forward to hearing the new one when it’s done!
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, and keep up all the amazing work you are doing in your neighborhood!
Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.
I am inspired and recharged from listening to the songs from you guys. Keep up the great works, we need you all walking the path is service. Love you all.
Lee Ying Leong (January 1, 2022 at 10:51 PM)