Born in Shiraz, Iran on 20 October 1819, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad would become known to the world as the Bab (meaning “the Gate” in Arabic). The Bab was the symbolic gate; it was His mission to herald the coming of this promised Manifestation of God whom we know to be Baha’u’llah. In the Baha’i calendar, the Birth of the Bab and the Birth of Baha’u’llah are celebrated one after the other in one festival referred to as the “Twin Holy Days”.
“The Primal Point” – A Duet of the Titles of the Bab
When I heard that Elika Mahony and Luke Slott were going to record a tribute to the Bab by singing some of His titles, I knew it would be musical light upon light! The song is magical and I’m grateful to Elika for taking the time to tell us a little bit about it.
Could you tell us about this song? What inspired its composition and who are you collaborating with?
Last year, I received a message from a friend who asked if I had ever composed a song featuring the Titles of the Bab. Having previously heard my compositions based on the Titles of Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah, she was curious if there was a similar piece for the Bab.
I felt inspired in that moment to compose a song highlighting the Titles of the Bab.
A few days after that, with the help of my husband, I began the process of researching, gathering and arranging some of His Titles and immediately started composing the song.
As the song took shape, I envisioned it as a duet, and I couldn’t have been more delighted when my dear friend, Luke Slott, graciously accepted my invitation to collaborate on the piece.
How did you record it? What was the collaborating process like?
During the pandemic, my husband and I were stuck in the United States and so I didn’t have access to my studio in China, which presented a unique set of challenges. However, with the generous support of my Patrons, I was able to purchase a microphone and a keyboard so that I could compose and record.
What made this collaboration even more special was that Luke and I had the joy of working together in real-time online. Luke recorded his vocals in Dublin, Ireland as I listened in via Skype, allowing us to meticulously fine-tune every detail together.
Working with Luke has been an absolute delight, and our collaborative process has unfolded seamlessly. I feel extremely blessed to have his vocals enriching the song. I’m also grateful to my producer, Jarome Matthew, whose expertise made the song shine.
Your artistic contributions are so deeply cherished and appreciated. What have you learned, in all your years of composing and singing Baha’i-inspired music, about drawing effectively on the power of the arts?
I have learned that there is immense power in the Word of God coupled with music and visual elements. Setting the Baha’i Writings to music has been a profound gift in my life, providing an opportunity to delve deeper into the Holy Writings and making it easier to memorize them.
Most recently, I have been learning to create videos and I have found that combining beautiful images with the music can be a most effective means to uplift and inspire hearts. At the same time, I try to make sure the Words remain the focus and that they don’t get overshadowed by the music. In other words, the goal is to ensure that interaction with the Word of God is the primary experience, while the artistic elements serve to create an enhanced, immersive experience for the listener/viewer.
This journey is both a joyous and a time-consuming one. Countless hours of recording and meticulous editing are required to bring a song to life, and I’m deeply grateful for the support of my producer throughout this process.
Remembering that we are only a channel for inspiration to pass through is also important. It is a humbling process.
What is something you learned during the process of recording this song?
I had never reflected so deeply on the Titles of the Bab and was amazed to see the sheer number of them (my husband and I came across more than twenty in the Writings of the Faith)! By happy coincidence, I was able choose nine that fit harmoniously with the composition.
I have also learned how important it is to be patient in the process of recording music, particularly when navigating the myriad elements involved in crafting a song. It can often feel overwhelming, with many decisions to be made regarding each facet of the composition. However, I’ve come to appreciate that, through prayer, reflection, time, space, and confidence in the consultative process, the various components gradually align and take form.
Another delightful surprise was the remarkable synergy that Luke and I shared when working on this song. It is such a joy to work with musicians who are so talented in their craft.
What do you hope people will take away with them after listening to this piece?
I hope the music will inspire in the listeners a deeper love and appreciation for the Bab. I also hope the video will encourage friends to go on Pilgrimage to the Holy Land so that they can be inspired by their time spent in the Shrines.
We are blessed beyond words to have the opportunity to enter these sacred spaces and to commune with the Divine Manifestations in their eternal resting places. These priceless experiences are not only spiritually recharging but also deeply reflective, and equip us to serve better upon our return to our communities.
What else are you working on?
For the last several years I have been compiling quotations on the theme of life after death and creating compositions for several prayers for the departed.
I am also working with my husband and my cousin on Volume IV of Hands of the Cause of God–booklets for the youth to learn more about the lives of the Hands of the Cause through anecdotes of their lives.
Thank you, Elika, for sharing this with us!
Here is the music video for the song “The Primal Point: Titles of the Bab”:
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.