Category Archives Interviews

Soulboy: An Interview with Khalil Fong

Which Baha’i musician has millions of fans and concerts that pack out stadiums? Khalil Fong – that’s who! “Who?” you ask? Well, to many of the English speaking world, the name Khalil Fong may not ring a bell, but to the Mandarin speaking world in China, Singapore and Taiwan, Hong Kong based pop-star Khalil Fong has been playing to packed-out stadiums and he continues to pump out the hits!

Besides having over six million followers on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter), six albums under his belt, and approximately 180 music awards, Khalil has also been praised by the media for his upright character and for being such a positive role model for young people.

I was first introduced to Khalil Fong’s music several years ago when a close friend of mine had given me Khalil Fong’s first album Soulboy, and even though I don’t speak Mandarin, as soon as I pressed “Play”, I was humming and snapping my fingers to the beat.

When I was in Hong Kong a short time ago, there were posters of Khalil everywhere – and I mean EVERYWHERE! I walked into a HMV music store and there was an entire display at the entrance dedicated to his latest album titled “15”, and when I took the CD over to the counter, the guy at the register nodded approvingly of my choice and said “Good album, good album!”.

I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Khalil Fong, and I was really impressed by his humility and the dedication and professionalism with which he approached his musical career. It was also very obvious that being a pop-star was exhausting work, with a hectic schedule and the pressures of always being in the spotlight, so I was really pleased that he was able to squeeze in an interview for Baha’i Blog. Continue reading

apresnovembre: An Interview with Shahrzad Maydani

Image by Shahrzad Maydani (apresnovembre)

apresnovembre is a blog featuring the fascinating work of Shahrzad Maydani, a Baha’i artist from Toronto. The work on her blog features some of the truly beautiful art that she’s created in response to some of the major tests that have come her way in recent years.

Lemons, which feature quite prominently in her work, as you’ll no doubt notice, are used as a metaphor for life’s tests and difficulties – a clever play on the popular expression “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

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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. Continue reading

Acoustic Devotion: An Interview with Omid Master

Photo by Leila Barbaro

Singer-songwriter Omid Master lives in Port Douglass, a small coastal town popular with the tourists in the tropical north-east of Australia. Omid has been strumming and thumping out the tunes with a rock band for years, and having already released a few commercial albums with tracks successfully hitting the local charts, he’s recently taken it down a notch and recorded an acoustic album with the help of a few friends.

The album’s called Acoustic Baha’i Devotions, and that’s exactly what it is – Baha’i Prayers and Writings set to unplugged, down-to-earth acoustic guitar and other instruments.

I decided to catch up with Omid to talk about the album and his career as a musician in general. Continue reading

Baha’i On Air: An Interview with Ken Zemke

What Baha’i TV show has been running for over 12 years now and boasts over 200 episodes? “Baha’i On Air”, that’s what!

Since 1998, “Baha’i On Air” has been broadcasting every week in Auckland, on New Zealand’s community TV station. The show not only reaches Auckland’s population of one million people, but also broadcasts to the nation’s four million, and to other countries in the Pacific such as The Cook Islands, The Solomon Islands, and American Samoa.

Baha’i On Air is headed up by award winning Hollywood filmmaker Ken Zemke, who’s someone I’ve known and admired for a long time now and whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on a couple of video projects over the years.

Ken has to be one of the hardest working people I know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a camera in his hand, working on a project for the Faith.

I finally managed to catch up with Ken and asked him to talk to us about Baha’i On Air. Continue reading

An Interview with Oneworld Publications

Co-founders of Oneworld Publications husband and wife team Novin Doostar and Juliet Mabey.

Oneworld is an independent publisher focusing on non-fiction and was founded in 1986 by husband and wife team Juliet Mabey and Novin Doostdar. Oneworld now publishes around sixty books a year and works with authors, literary agents and publishing partners around the world.

I decided to catch up with Oneworld co-founder Juliet Mabey to find out more about the work they’re doing to bring quality, consciousness-raising books to as many people around the world as possible.

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Soul Food: Food for the Soul

It’s Sunday morning in the city of Melbourne, Australia, and a crowd of about 100 people gathers at the State Library of Victoria. Everyone’s eager to enter the auditorium, and they start lining up next to a sign labelled “Soul Food”. Everyone’s here because they’re hungry – but not for physical food, they’ve come to receive food for the soul.

Rated as one of the Top Ten things to do in Melbourne, Soul Food is a monthly event which has been running consistently for six years now. The program runs for about 40 minutes, and it features live readings from various faiths and philosophers woven together with beautiful imagery and live music.

I’ve been living in Melbourne for about three years now and Soul Food is definitely an event I’ve had locked in my calendar, so I decided to sit down with one of the organisers of the event, Nima Ferdowsi, and ask him about the initiative and its success. Continue reading

Create in Me a Pure Heart: An Interview with Luke Slott

Create in Me a Pure Heart, Luke Slott

The “Create in me a pure heart” prayer by Baha’u’llah has long been one of my favourite prayers for spiritual growth. Whenever I read this prayer, my mind is drawn to the beauty of its imagery, and regardless of how I was feeling when I began reading the prayer, I begin to feel a profound tranquility.

Luke Slott’s beautiful musical rendition of this prayer is befitting and always reminds me of one of my favourite lines from the prayer: “Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquility on me”.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that Luke’s rendition of Create in Me a Pure Heart is merely part of a larger project: an album of devotional music! (Not to mention the beautiful album artwork by Shirin Sahba!)

I decided to catch up with Luke to find out more about his devotional album, his future plans, as well as his thoughts on being a Baha’i musician.

Baha’i Blog: So tell us a bit more about yourself and how you started making music.

When I was 12 years old, my father, who was a jazz trumpet player, gave me a gift of one of his trumpets and started giving me lessons. After about a year of teaching me at home, my dad insisted that I get a classical music education at an established institute. So I enrolled for trumpet lessons at the College of Music & Drama in Dublin. Around the same time, I started taking piano lessons at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and guitar lessons with a local teacher. In my teens, I started writing songs and for a few years I played in a rock band with some school friends. Continue reading