Category Archives Music

Phoenix of Love: An Interview with Shidan Toloui-Wallace

I’m excited to introduce Baha’i Blog’s readers to Shidan Toloui-Wallace, one of the most admired contemporary Persian and Arabic chanters in the Baha’i world. Now ‘chanting’ is not to be confused with singing – although Shidan does that beautifully as well – but as she explained to me, chanting is a form of improvised singing usually based on Holy Scriptures or poetry, and a person chanting may chant the same piece of scripture differently every time.

Shidan Toloui-Wallace recently released her second album titled Phoenix of Love, which features Baha’i prayers and poems chanted in Persian and Arabic, as well as English collaborations with her daughter Shadi Toloui-Wallace, whom we interviewed here on Baha’i Blog as well.

Shidan’s reputation was established during the time she was a volunteer at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel from 1991–1997. She was regularly asked to chant on special occasions such as Holy Day observances, and it was during her time in Haifa that she recorded her first album entitled The Call of Carmel with her dear friend Taraneh Rafati, and Shidan’s uncle, the late Masood Missaghian played the Persian Santoor (also called a Hammer Dulcimer) on the album.

Some 15 years later in late 2012, Shidan decided to record Phoenix of Love, and so I thought it would be great to catch-up with Shidan to find out more about this wonderful album, which although it is predominantly in Persian and Arabic, also includes wonderful musical fusions of East and West . Continue reading

Carmel Nights: Rekindle 2013

Parties would be dead without it, all dancing would cease, long journeys would feel even longer and the members of glee would no longer be able to express how they feel. Yes, music is pretty essential to everything we do in life. It’s almost impossible to go even one day without hearing it on the radio, from buskers in the street, from a builder whistling while he works. But why? Why does music form such an important part of our society? In the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha’u’llah wrote:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high…

We could glean, then, that the reason music is so powerful, whether we are conscious of it or not, is that it has an effect on our soul, and that ultimately its purpose is to uplift us.

‘Uplifted’ is how a group of friends felt while sitting in a cafe in East London when they decided to organise an open mic night where people could jam and play uplifting music together. They decided to call it Carmel Nights and five years later, Carmel Nights has become an annual concert hosted by the Waterman’s Theatre, Ealing and this year’s recent event attracted over 200 audience members. Even though over the last five years some of the specifics of the event have changed and developed, the purpose of Carmel Nights has remained the same: to bring people together to be elevated by live music. Continue reading

Kindle: An Interview with Natasha Chiang

One of the things I absolutely love discovering is new Baha’i inspired music, and one of the wonderful benefits of running Baha’i Blog is that we get to share these awesome musical discoveries with the rest of the Baha’i world!

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the beautiful music of Natasha Chiang, a new Baha’i artist in Australia who just released her debut album a few weeks ago entitled Kindle.

Kindle was produced and arranged by musical legend Louie Shelton, and the whole album is based on Baha’i prayers.

There are also a couple of tracks where Natasha sings in Mandarin, and it’s really great to hear the Baha’i Writings being sung in Chinese.

I decided to catch up with Natasha Chiang to find out more about her and her music.
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Where to find Baha’i Sheet Music Online

In this day and age it’s become much easier to get a hold of new information and materials. Years ago, if you wanted to play an instrument like your guitar or keyboard at a gathering or camp, you’d have to get things like sheet music off other people and from books at Baha’i stores. Now, all you have to do is get online, grab the music yourself from the comfort of your own home and print it off!

Music is a important ingredient at feasts, firesides, devotionals, childrens classes, and many other Baha’i meetings, as it is a ladder to the soul. So getting those upbeat tunes to sing along with and liven up your events is a must!

As Baha’u’llah says,

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high.
-Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas

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Verdant Isle: An Interview with Shadi Toloui-Wallace

Australian singer and songwriter Shadi Toloui-Wallace was raised in a musical family, but her own musical journey with the Faith really came to fruition when she recognised the need within the Baha’i community for more contemporary forms of music that are inspired by the teachings of the Baha’u’llah. With the support and encouragement of her family, and the legendary Louie Shelton coming on board to produce the album, Shadi launched her debut album called Leather Bound Book, which quickly took the Baha’i world by storm.

I first met Shadi about four years ago when I had just moved to Melbourne, Australia, and Shadi had just released her debut album. She had come to Melbourne to perform at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and her captivating music swept the audience right off their feet! Continue reading

At First Light: An Interview with Chelsea Lee Smith

Chelsea Lee Smith has been busy! Not only has she been busy working as a full-time mom, but among other things, she’s one of the main driving forces behind the wonderful blog for parenting called Enable Me To Grow, and also the Radiant Hearts educational resource which is aimed at assisting in the spiritual education of children.

And now Chelsea, along with the help of her husband Zafar and two children, has just released yet another resource called At First Light, Volume 1, which is a musical album based on 20 short quotations from the Baha’i Writings.

This wonderful album is a great way for kids and adults alike to memorise the Baha’i Writings, and the album also comes with 20 instrumental tracks of each song as well, so everyone can sing along!

With Ayyam-i-Ha coming up soon, I’m going to be buying a few copies for some of my family and friends, and I thought this would also be good opportunity to let others know about this wonderful album, so I decided to catch up with Chelsea to hear more about the initiative.  Continue reading

10 Instrumental Tracks for Your Next Devotional Gathering

In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Baha’u’llah has said “We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high” and  I’m sure you have all experienced this to be true at times while listening to certain music. The emotions and thoughts that music can engender in heart, mind and soul can at times be truly sublime. Now combine this with the blessed words of the Holy Messengers in a reflective atmosphere and its effects can become soul-stirring.

Over the last 8 years that we’ve been holding a monthly public devotional event called Soul Food, we have learnt how the accompaniment of music to the Holy Writings can truly uplift the atmosphere.

There is a vast ocean of beautiful music that can be used to assist. In selecting the right background music it needs to fulfil its purpose of uplifting the writings rather than overpowering it. Also the appropriate feel of music to match the tone of the quotes being read is also important. I have found that often movie sound tracks are ideal, as they tell a story and are often longer in length .

Below I have compiled a list of 10 tracks we have used in Soul Food that I would recommend as a good start for your next series of devotionals. The first five are taken from motion pictures, all of which I would also recommend to watch, and the last five are a range of music by different composers. The links for where you can purchase these tracks are also attached. Continue reading

Innocent In Heart: An Interview with MJ Cyr

About a year ago while surfing the web for Baha’i related content, I came across an awesome Baha’i musician on gofundme.com.

Her name was MJ Cyr, and she was trying to raise money to record and launch her first full-length album which was based on the Baha’i Writings. What really got my attention at first was the video she posted up on the site (and which I’ve also included at the bottom of this post). It was a simple video of her standing in front of a mic with a guitar strapped over her shoulder, and as the song developed, she just kept adding layer-upon-layer of music and vocals until the song really came to life! Continue reading

An Interview with Karim of Baha’i R’n’B Hip-Hop duo Nabil & Karim

Karim left, and Nabil to the right. (Image courtesy: Matts Vai)

What happens when two good friends living in Canada decide to get together and collaborate on creating music which brings the Baha’i Writings to life in a fresh and contemporary way? The answer is simple: Nabil & Karim.

The smooth grooves of music duo Nabil & Karim were born when Nabil (a Persian-Canadian Baha’i who was raised in Portugal), and Karim (an Egyptian-Irishman born in Haiti and raised in India and Canada) were studying audio production in Canada together, and with the encouragement of their local Baha’i community, they started working on putting the Sacred Writings to music for community events.

I’ve got both of their albums, and I know tons of Baha’is around the world who love their music too, so I was super-excited to be able to catch up with Karim and ask him a few questions about himself and the duo!

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you guys got together?

We met in college, it was a rainy day, the sun had just fallen behind the horizon… but seriously we studied audio production at Metal Works Institute in Mississauga. The Baha’i community at Mississauga strongly encouraged us to perform at Holy Day events and that was a big reason why we started making songs together. We both come from pioneering families, Nabil’s family pioneered to Portugal and mine to Haiti and India. Nabil plays guitar and sings and I rap and beatbox. Nabil is health conscious and fit and I am the opposite of that. But we both try our best to be spiritually fit. We have very different tastes in music but when we come together… Continue reading

HELLO …i like you. An Interview with Delia


A few weeks ago while attending a community event, a beautiful song in French start playing over the speakers during the devotional portion of the gathering. I had had to know who the singer was and where I could find the song.

It turns out the the song was by Delia Olam, a Baha’i who lives in Adelaide, Australia and she’s someone whom I had met several years ago at a conference. As someone quite involved with music and the arts, it makes me sad to think that there are so many great Baha’i inspired songs and other initiatives happening around the world that unfortunately go unheard to the vast majority of friends. One of the main aims of Baha’i Blog and our Resource Directory is to make sure that these wonderful initiatives are shared with others, and Delia Olam’s album HELLO … i Like You is one of those gems which has been hidden away from most of us for some time now.

I immediately caught up with Delia to find out more about her album, and she’s also allowed us to stream the song I heard at the devotional. The song is called O Ami, and it’s the Hidden Word “O Friend! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love…” in French. You can play the song at the bottom of this post. Continue reading