- Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
Strive is the debut album from two 12-year-old brothers from New Zealand, Michael and Anthony Zemke, who got together with singer and producer Sonbol to record an album for young listeners and to help raise money for the Chilean Baha’i Temple Fund.
I decided to catch up with Michael and Anthony to hear what they had to say about this exciting initiative.
Baha’i Blog: Hi guys, first of all great job on the album! It’s a really great initiative and I’m so happy to see young guys like yourselves arising to serve and using the arts to not only contribute to the Chilean Temple Fund, but to also provide such a great resource for others to use! Can you tell me a little more about the initiative and how the album came about?
Our really good friend Sonbol was interested in recording our voices. She had heard us sing at Feast and Holy Day events for a long time and thought it would be a good idea to record us so we could have a record of how we sounded as children.
So, firstly, our parents wanted us to record a CD just to keep it as a memoir for the family and some close friends but later on it turned into a big thing for the wider community, and now some people in America and Australia also have our CD. When we first started performing at the Arizona Conference (approximately 6 years ago) we had a lot of people coming up to us and asking if we had made a CD, or if we were going to make one, so it also came from that.
Baha’i Blog: What has the response from the community been like so far?
Well so far everyone who has bought the CD so far has been congratulating us on it and many people have been using the album for devotions, meetings, Feasts, and to put their children to sleep.
We have had an amazing response from the international community. Baha’is in New Zealand, Australia and USA have purchased our CD. Sonbol has also helped us make a music video for the title track ‘Strive’, and she has sent it to Baha’i View (television) in the US. So we have Baha’i friends from around the world who tell our mum they have seen our video. We recently also saw the music video on another Baha’i TV website. As well as that, my grandfather here in NZ has put the music video on the Baha’i on Air YouTube page and we have had nearly 1000 views.
Baha’i Blog: So how have the sales been going and how much money have you managed to raise for the Chilean Temple Fund so far?
So far we have sold more than one hundred copies of the album and donated fifteen hundred dollars to the Chilean Temple Fund.
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about the songs and who wrote them?
All of the tracks are either Prayers or Writings from Abdu’l-Baha, The Bab and Baha’u’llah, and they are all composed by different Baha’i musicians like Grant Hinden-Miller, Red Grammer, Tom Price, Jack Lenz, Joe Crone and our dad. We first had to email every composer and that was one of the longest processes when we were making the CD. My dad knew most of the composers so he contacted them all to get their permission.
Baha’i Blog: Being junior youth yourselves, why do you think it’s important for young listeners to hear the voices of young singers on an album?
I think it is important because mostly older people have recorded Baha’i CDs, and in my perspective, children and junior youth would rather listen to people their own age.
Well there aren’t many child Baha’i singers who have recorded CDs so it is used quite a lot with children’s classes and I think it just makes younger people feel more comfortable.
Baha’i Blog: Seeing as this is the first time you’ve recorded an album, what are some of the interesting things you’ve learned from the experience?
This is the first time we have recorded an album but not our first time recording a song. Since we had some experience with recording a song, we got used to it much faster and felt like we had been doing it for the past 10 years. I learned patience because you can’t always get it right your first go – you have to keep on trying.
This is the first time we recorded an album, but we had also recorded with other Baha’i artists – Sonbol and Linda Poulton – which was an amazing experience and was very different to what I originally thought it was going to be like.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope your listeners walk away with after listening to your album?
Feeling that they haven’t just listened to a normal song but that they have listened to a prayer.
Like they have just have eaten melted chocolate. Really warm and sweet on the inside and all relaxed on the outside.
Baha’i Blog: Do you guys have any plans for recording any other albums?
I would love to do another album soon as it was a great experience, but we haven’t started working on anything yet – we are looking for ideas.
Since we are half Persian, we know a lot of Persian prayers, so I wanted to make one with prayers in all different languages, but seeing as we are just going to start high school, it will be hard to find the time.
Baha’i Blog: What do you think others can learn from young people like yourselves, and why do you think it’s so important for junior youth to play an active role in the affairs of society?
I think that if Junior Youth don’t learn life lessons now, then in the future when their kids are young, they will have nothing to teach or give.
I think everyone should think about the name of this album “Strive”. Basically not to give up hope and carry on, and live like there will not be another today. “Strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers”-Abdu’l-Baha
Baha’i Blog: Well that’s something I think we can all strive for. Thanks so much for your time and for the wonderful album. I hope we’ll be hearing more from you both in future!
If you’d like to purchase a copy of their CD “Strive”, please write to: [email protected]
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