Category Archives Interviews

The Soul Salons: A New Podcast Exploring our Spiritual Heritage

It’s great to see the development of so many wonderful Baha’i-inspired media initiatives around the world, and with podcasts becoming more and more popular globally, it’s no wonder that the creation of Baha’i-inspired podcasts, like our very own Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson, are becoming more prevalent in the online space.

I was excited, therefore, to learn about a new podcast series called ‘The Soul Salons‘, created by Zarrin Caldwell, which aims to explore our spiritual world and the world of the divine, through the works and teachings of prophets, poets, mystics, and philosophers throughout the ages. Whether it’s taking a deep dive into the works of several known – and unknown – English poets, or exploring some of the teachings of Confucius, each episode is designed to reveal insights that can be applied to our own daily lives.

I caught up with Zarrin to find out more about ‘The Soul Salons’ and here’s what she had to say about her new podcast series:

Baha’i Blog: Hi Zarrin, can you tell us a little bit about ‘The Soul Salons’ podcast?

The aim of the podcast series is to look at the work of prophets, poets, mystics, and philosophers throughout the ages whose teachings have focused on our divine, or spiritual, reality. ‘The Soul Salons’ are purposefully kept short – about 12 minutes each – so that they are easy to listen to and to reflect on.

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Susan Gammage Releases 8 New Books!

Part of Baha’i Blog’s mission is to support Baha’i-inspired content online: we strive to see what’s currently out there in English and we try to lend support by highlighting initiatives, interviewing creators, and curating videos and songs. Susan Gammage has been tirelessly creating and promoting uplifting and resourceful Baha’i-inspired content for many years. When her website was hacked and taken offline, we keenly felt the absence of her online voice for many, many months — as did a whole community of people who have found Susan’s materials helpful. We are thrilled that she’s back online, with a newly designed site, and has recently released not one, but eight new books! Continue reading

Inspired By: An Album by Heart to Heart

When I heard Heart to Heart’s album, Inspired By, I felt that it was a musical expression of Baha’u’llah’s words “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizen”. Its global and diverse sounds are genuine and a credit to the band’s name. Thankfully the Baha’i community is so interconnected that, with the help of the internet, it was easy to find out more about this musical collaboration. I was able to hear from Alex Christensen about this multi-cultural, rich, and heartfelt album. Here’s what he shared with me:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us who is involved in Heart to Heart?

Heart to Heart is a collective of artists living in the Vancouver area who are learning to create music inspired by their own stories and their involvement in community building efforts. For this album, the artists involved were three brothers: Eric, Alex, and Dan Christensen.

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Creative Circles – A Retreat for Those Striving to Serve Humanity Through Art

I had the privilege of meeting the wonderful Gordon Kerr at the recent Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival, and he told me about an awesome initiative he’s started in the UK called ‘Creative Circles’.

Creative Circles is a small retreat for those striving to serve humanity through art, and it’s a gathering where artists of all types come together from around the world for a week of masterclasses, workshops, presentations, and the sharing of experiences. It’s also an opportunity for artists to explore their interests and nurture their creative talents in an atmosphere of fellowship and support.

I absolutely love the idea of Creative Circles and I wanted to know more, so here’s what Gordon had to say about this great initiative: Continue reading

Foreigner – Hussein Ahdieh’s New Book about His Journey from Iran to New York

My dear friend and prolific writer and scholar Hussein Ahdieh has just released a memoir of his experiences as a Baha’i in Iran and an immigrant to the United States. You may recognize his name from the books Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz or The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries. Both books were co-written with Hillary Chapman, and now the dynamic duo have teamed up again for their latest book based on Hussein Ahdieh’s life, called Foreigner. It’s funny, it’s tender, and it sheds a powerful light on what it feels like to be an immigrant.

Hussein agreed to tell us about his book and what inspired him to write it:

Baha’i Blog: Hi Hussein, can you tell us a little bit about your new book ‘Foreigner’, and what it’s all about?

‘Foreigner’ tells my story as an Iranian Baha’i immigrant to the United States in a series of moving and humorous episodes set against the backdrop of a changing Iran, the plight of the Baha’is there, and the tumult of the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. It’s a vivid re-telling of a foreigner’s experience — as a Baha’i in a Shi’a Muslim country, as an immigrant in a foreign land, as a poor person in New York City, as a Middle Easterner in the West – it’s full of my experiences with challenges and personalities from all walks of life.

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Libero: A Baha’i-Inspired Album by NAIM

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

Visiting Abdu’l-Baha: A New Two Volume Series by Earl Redman

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.

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Fire and Light: An Album Dedicated to Baha’u’llah by Peter Held

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

Remembrance Suite: A Sonnet of Sonnets by Shirin Sabri

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

The Exalted One: A Bicentenary Album by Elika Mahony

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