About a year ago, I had the pleasure of talking on the phone to a Baha’i singer-songwriter from Italy named Naim Abid. We hit it off straight away, and we spoke for hours about a wide range of topics ranging from love and loss, to music and the Baha’i Faith.
Over the years, Naim has developed an eclectic vocal style ranging from ska to swing, soul to pop, and from blues to revival, and his wide range of musical talents came to life in a sold-out series of shows called “Crooner Nights”, where he paid tribute to the greats of American and Italian music, by combining the hits and their stories in a mix of theatre and music, with themed costumes, curious tales, vintage image projections and iconic improvisation.
Naim played a crucial role in helping us record some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions in Italy, and you can see him here in this upbeat Studio Session called “So Powerful (Tanto Potente)”.
As I’ve gotten to know him over the course of the year, it’s become very clear that along with the Baha’i Faith, music and performance are at his core and run through his veins. It’s no surprise then that Naim has combined his passion for the Baha’i Faith and his passion for music into the production of a Baha’i-inspired album called Libero, and I connected with Naim again to find out more about it: Continue reading
Earl Redman is a master storytelling and his books captivate my imagination. He’s the author of Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst, Shoghi Effendi Through the Pilgrim’s Eye (Volumes I and II), and The Knights of Baha’u’llah. George Ronald recently released a new book, called Visiting Abdu’l-Baha, that makes up the first volume in a two volume series. The books feature stories illustrating how Abdu’l-Baha taught the principles of the Baha’i Faith to others and how He embodied those principles in His interactions. I was eager to catch up with Earl and here’s our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: It’s wonderful to hear from you again, Earl! What have you been up to since we last interviewed you?
Since 2014, my wife Sharon and I have been traveling extensively from Tasmania, through the Pacific, the US, Canada and Alaska, to Iceland, Europe, Tunisia and Israel sharing stories from the two volumes of Visiting Abdu’l-Baha, mostly in small communities who do not get many visitors. And it has been amazing to see the reactions of both Baha’is and their friends to these stories.
German pianist and composer, Peter Held, has produced a nuanced jazz album of devotional music dedicated to Baha’u’llah in the bicentennial year of His Birth. The album is called Fire and Light and it contains 18 acoustic and instrumental piano tracks with titles such as “Traces of the Beloved” and “Morning Hour”.
Fire and Light isn’t Peter’s first devotional album. He also released Creation, on which Corinne Bahia sings a selection of Baha’i Writings in accompaniment with Peter’s piano music.
We decided to get in touch with Peter to find out more about his music and what inspired Fire and Light: Continue reading
While reading Remembrance Suite by the poet Shirin Sabri, I found myself getting caught up in emotion.
Thinking about my tearful reaction to these stunning poems, I traced them back to an unusual mixture of feelings of outrage and inspiration.
The poet tells of the wrongs done to some of the women in history but gowns the exposure with descriptions of their achievements, and their eternal glory. The vocabulary is rich, the images suffused with colour and beauty, the message as clear as a bell.
Most of the subjects of the poems are women unknown to most people in the world but they clearly made significant contributions to the great ongoing spiritual journey of humanity. We learn of Hajar and Hatshepsut, of Zenobia and Hypatia. For Baha’is we are treated to new perspectives on Khadijih Bagum, on Navaab, and on Ruhiyyih Khanum. Other subjects are Aseyeh, Maria the Jewess, The Magdalene, Tahirih and Bahiyyih Khanum.
In her poem “Grandmothers”, Shirin Sabri lives up to her own injunction in the final verse:
So, tell their stories, breathe upon history’s blood red ember
and light their lovely faces with that flame. We will remember.
I relished the opportunity to ask the poet some questions. Continue reading
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Elika Mahony has released an album in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab and it’s befittingly titled The Exalted One. The 11 songs on the album set the prayers and Writings of the Bab to music with piano, cello, guitar, tiple, cuatro (South American instruments) and soaring voice.
I am eager and excited to share my conversation with Elika with you for two reasons: for one, it’s wonderful to shine a light on creative endeavors in these months leading up to the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab but also because Elika is donating the sales of The Exalted One from May 23rd to July 10th to the construction of the Shrine of Abdu’l-Baha! Here is some more information about the album and how it came together: Continue reading
Louis Venters is a historian and historic preservationist with a particular interest in the histories of race, religion, and social change in the United States. He has just released a new book titled A History of the Baha’i Faith in South Carolina and it features some incredible photographs.
I first met Louis in West Africa when I was a junior youth — many more years ago than I’d care to admit! My family was pioneering in Benin and he was completing a year of service in Togo and Benin. I learned some valuable lessons from Louis about speaking truthfully, lovingly and at times courageously, about being a Baha’i. I feel really honoured that our paths have crossed again, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from his experiences once more. Here’s what he shared about his new book:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in South Carolina, and I became a Baha’i in the late 1980s when I was a junior youth. In fact I first heard about the Faith on Radio Baha’i WLGI, the station that broadcasts from the Louis G. Gregory Baha’i Institute, so in that sense I’m a product of the large-scale growth that made South Carolina such an important part of the American Baha’i community in the 1970s and 1980s. I teach African and African diaspora history, U.S. history, and public history at Francis Marion University, a small public institution in Florence, South Carolina. I also do some public history work, especially through Preservation South Carolina and the state’s African American Heritage Commission. One of the public history projects I’m proudest of is the Green Book of South Carolina, a new mobile travel guide to African American heritage sites across the state. When I’m not being a historian, more often than not it’s my wife and me trying to keep up with our two little boys and serve in our cluster. Otherwise, I’m either at the gym lifting weights or outside running or working in our garden.
A new website appeared on the horizon a few months ago that caught my eye with its beautiful graphics and elevated purpose. Hasten Baha’i Women is full of resources: questions to ponder based on the Baha’i Writings, stories of Baha’i women both historical and contemporary, music, free printables, videos, recipes, and much more! Once you start exploring the site, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of elevated and helpful content!
Bre Vader and Jaleh Mostaghim are the sister-duo behind the site and I’m so grateful they agreed to tell us about it: Continue reading
Englisi Farsi is a wonderful resource for parents who wish to teach their children Persian (Farsi), the language of Iran, even if they can’t read or write the language themselves. Using the familiar phonetics of the English alphabet, the learning aid includes a series of lively e-books with an interactive audio and pronunciation guide, giving anyone who reads and speaks English a entryway to the rich and lyrical language that is Farsi. Created by Mona Kiani, Englisi Farsi includes colorful books for young children about animals, virtues, fruits and vegetables. They also have a Baha’i prayer book as well! Mona shared with us how she created these books and about the process of putting together the prayer book. Here’s our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Mona! Could you please tell us a little about yourself and Englisi Farsi?
I am an English-speaking Australian of Iranian descent with a Singaporean spouse of mixed ethnicity. We are currently speaking Persian and Mandarin to our son. While I could converse fluently in Farsi, I was not fully acquainted with the Persian written word. That is, untiI I started this journey!
I knew in my heart that I wanted my son to know Farsi. My language defines who I am and, in turn, who he is or will be. I wanted my son to have a good start. But I couldn’t find any resource that didn’t require me to master the Persian alphabet. After a period of futile searching, I decided to develop my own teaching tools in Pinglish/Finglish (Farsi in English) for my son — and my husband as well as the English-speaking wives of my Persian brothers.
Participants of the 2017 European Baha'i Choral Festival gather outside the European Baha'i House of Worship in Germany. (Photo: Zarrin Munusamy)
In a few weeks (May 29-June 2), participants from across Europe will come together at the European Baha’i House of Worship in Germany, to join voices and take part in the European Baha’i Choral Festival! This is the second year the event is taking place, and besides the singing and sharing of glorious music with others, the event aims to strengthen the bonds of fellowship and harmony amongst Baha’is and their friends across Europe.
I caught up with the festival’s musical director, Ameli Dziemba, to find out more about the event and to hear about her experiences: Continue reading
The film team for the dedication of the Baha'i House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. From left to right are Kyle Schmalenberg, Nabil Sami Silva, Laura Friedmann, Raul Cavalcanti Spinassé, and Naim Sadeghian.
Like all Baha’i Blog team members, Laura Friedmann and Kyle Schmalenberg wear many hats and serve their communities in a variety of capacities. Owing to their wealth of media experience, they were invited, along with a few others, to document the opening of the House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. You may remember this short film about the preparations that were made, this video of the opening ceremony, or this aerial footage of the gorgeous Temple.
Kyle and Laura shared some of their experiences and impressions about working on this project and we thought you’d be as uplifted by the conversation as we were! Continue reading