Ridvan celebrates Baha’u’llah’s time in the garden of Ridvan where He publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God. The Ridvan Festival is 12 days long and is also the time of year where Baha’is elect their governing bodies.
As the Faith grows and develops, the artistic expression of its followers blossoms and grows. Recorded devotional music in French are rare gems so I was ecstatic when I learned about Lemon Soul Trio, a band whose motto is “un antidote contre le blues” (which roughly translates as “an antidote for the blues”) – a clever turn of phrase considering their jazzy, bluesy, world-music style.
Their first album, which bears their band’s name, was released in October 2014. It contains 9 tracks – a propitious number! While the majority of their lyrics are in French, their music is global in its appeal. The group is composed of three very talented musicians: Margaret Harmer, a percussionist; Nicolas Leroy, a guitarist; and Yasmin Farhoumand, a vocalist.
I was eager to find out more and Yasmin agreed to share some behind-the-tunes information on behalf of the band about their exciting work.
Baha’i Blog: Bonjour Yasmin! Thank you for taking the time to be with us. Please, tell me a bit about yourselves and your history as a band. How did you meet and form ‘Lemon Soul Trio’?
‘Lemon Soul Trio’ is the story of three very different individuals, who would probably have never met or come together if it hadn’t been through a higher purpose. Margaret and Yasmin met in the late nineties, as a core group of friends (inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith) were trying to enrich the spiritual life and reinforce bonds of true friendship in a small town near Geneva, called Carouge. Margaret being a professional and multi-facetted percussionist and Yasmin a nascent and passionate vocalist, they experimented several musical collaborations around sacred texts. Nicolas and Yasmin met during a winter session of the Baha’i Training institute in France in 2011, where they performed together for the first time. Yasmin was so impressed by the amazing musical skills of Nicolas, that she asked him if he would agree to work together to set to music writings of the Baha’i Faith in French. During one of the visits of Nicolas to Geneva in summer 2012, the three came together, started jamming and experimenting around some compositions, and as we say in French “la mayonnaise a pris” (things took off).
Baha’i Blog: Lemon Soul Trio is such a delightful name! What is the story behind it?
One evening, as Yasmin and Margaret where waiting for Nicolas to arrive from France (his train had been delayed), they started playing with funny ideas for the group’s name. Margaret had just bought a blender to do her home made fruits and vegetables smoothies. When Nicolas arrived, he was bombarded with excentric names, such as “Blue Smoothie Trio” by two hilarious girls. Needless to say that Nicolas wasn’t excited as we were by these names. But through a joyful brainstorming, we all finally agreed on “Lemon Soul Trio”, as it contains elements reflecting the spirit and taste of our music: something sunny and joyful, full of vitamins and good for the soul. This playful relationship between music and food has been reinforced ever since, as our trio loves healthy and tasty foods and has many stories related to this theme during recording sessions and rehearsals…
Baha’i Blog: What inspires you?
Food?! The beauty of the sacred writings of the Baha’i Faith which are universal in their message and meaning, and our love for the diverse musics of the world.
Baha’i Blog: What is the process like when you collaborate to write music set to the Sacred Verses?
We have different approaches to write music set to the Sacred Texts, and the most important aspect is our complementarity in this process. Sometimes, one of us brings an already composed melody, around which we start playing. Some ideas for arrangements emerge, which are then refined and enriched gradually, till we come to a satisfying version. Or we start jamming from a musical or rythmical idea, to which we then connect a text which inspires us. In all situations, we always start our sessions with a moment of prayer, meditation and consultation in a spirit of loving friendship. We try as much as we can to become as “hollow reeds from which the pith of self has been blown”, so that our music becomes like a case revealing the beauty of the jewel (i.e. the sacred texts).
Baha’i Blog: How does writing music for the Writings differ from other forms of songwriting — or does it differ at all?
It’s a matter of state of mind, of how we perceive our role, our mission and our posture as musicians. We have examples of musician friends who are writing songs with the same approach and intention as we are writing music for the Holy Writings, trying to be like hollow reeds for the spirit of love and inspiration to flow through. One thing is sure, it’s a real effort and challenge not to let the ego take over in this endeavour. In fact, the ego has to give way to the Greater Spirit, so that the music can touch the soul and heart of those who listen.
Baha’i Blog: What words of encouragement do you have for others who are looking to learn a musical instrument?
GO FOR IT!!! Music is a ladder for the soul, and learning an instrument can become one of the most beautiful love stories of your life!
Baha’i Blog: Any exciting plans for the future?
A plan we still have to work on is to tour in the French speaking countries (starting with Europe, and why not Africa, Canada, afterwards). For now we have to be patient and pray, as some unforeseen events are preventing us to move forward with concrete plans. But we are confident that we will be guided by God’s loving hand to whatever will be the best for all. Your prayers are welcome…
Baha’i Blog: I will be sure to pray for the success of your endeavours, Yasmin. Thank you again for taking the time to tell us about your music. It has been a pleasure!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.
Wonderful blog!! Delightfully put together! Thank you Sonjel!
Margaret (May 5, 2015 at 10:45 PM)
Genevieve Labbé has produced a cd called Dune which has songs in English and French which is also really really good. She also did a cd for children (again in both langues) called “Sunshine” . You should check her out!!
Charmaine Burke (November 11, 2017 at 5:49 AM)
Thank you for pointing out Labbé’s work, Charmaine!
Sonjel Vreeland (November 11, 2017 at 1:44 AM)