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
As the war in the east of Congo worsened in 2008, Pembe Lero decided to show the world that his country was about more than just poverty and bloodshed, by forming Shimama.
Using a model based partly on the success of Mana, a Pacific Island Baha’i music group, Shimama is a musical group that aims to put Baha’i-inspired Congolese music on the world map.
Strive is the debut album from two 12-year-old brothers from New Zealand, Michael and Anthony Zemke, who got together with singer and producer Sonbol to record an album for young listeners and to help raise money for the Chilean Baha’i Temple Fund.
I decided to catch up with Michael and Anthony to hear what they had to say about this exciting initiative.
For the past decade I’ve had the pleasure of working with the music group MANA, who’ve recently finished recording their fifth album. Many of my friends and the Bahá’ís I’ve met while travelling have asked about MANA and why this project in particular is so important to me.
Well, before I answer that and start going on and on about MANA (which, trust me, I can do for hours), for those of you who haven’t heard of them, here’s a quick introduction.
MANA, which means “inner power” or “strength of spirit” in many of the Polynesian languages, is a musical and cultural performance group made up of young Pacific Island Bahá’ís who are mainly based in Sydney, Australia. MANA’s albums are all based on the passages from the Writings which are studied in the sequence of Ruhi books. Although these albums are predominantly in English, most of their songs are infused with the languages, chants and rhythms of the Pacific Islands. The group has released four albums so far – one album for each of the first four books of the Ruhi sequence – and is currently preparing their fifth album (based on Book 6 of the Ruhi sequence of books) for release.
MANA’s albums have been incredibly well-received around the world, but the MANA project (as we like to call it) is far more than being just about making music and selling CDs. Personally, I have always found MANA to be such a powerful and incredibly inspiring initiative because of the way it exemplifies many of the concepts and ideas discussed by the Universal House of Justice in relation to the Institute Process and the various Plans. To me, MANA represents many of the aspects of the new and exciting culture taking shape in the Bahá’í community. Continue reading
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
The Ruhi Institute has made available for download, recordings of the songs contained in the new lesson plans for Grades 1 and 2 of the Teaching Children’s Class book.
These songs can be downloaded for free, and you can also download a page which contains both the lyrics and the chords for each song – so that’s pretty cool!
These materials can be used in both children’s classes and other educational activities, and The Ruhi Institute also permits the songs to be translated and recorded into various languages, provided that no recording be sold or used for commercial purposes in any way.
You can access the songs here: http://www.ruhi.org/resources/songs.php
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
Tahereh Etehad has a love for music and when the call came for Baha’is to help raise money for the Baha’i House of Worship in Chile, she stepped forward and decided to do her part by putting her vocal talents and musical abilities to good use by creating Heart to Heart, and contributing all the proceeds to the Chile Temple Fund.
I decided to catch up with Tahereh to find out more about her album and her thoughts on making music as a Baha’i.
Baha’i Blog: So tell us a little bit about yourself and your passion for music.
From a young age, I knew I was passionate about music. Celine Dion was my idol! When I was 10, I started to learn how to read music. I stopped going for lessons after a few years but continued to teach myself music. I have never been trained vocally but I feel that through my passion, I am able to express myself naturally through music.
When I was 16, I began writing music. When I finished high school, I completed a Bachelor of Popular Music. The Faith has transcended my passion for music to a whole new level. 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…” Continue reading
Navid Bahmani (AKA Navid B) became a Bahá’í about two years ago, and he recently founded his own record label called Bluebottle Records. I’ve known Navid B for some time now and I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the sidelines of seeing his musical career unfold. Bluebottle has just released their debut album called A New Dawn, so I sat down with Navid B and got him to tell me a little bit about himself and what he’s trying to achieve through his record label:
Baha’i Blog: So tell us a little about yourself and how you got into making music?
I’m from Sydney, Australia and I’m actually a hairdresser by trade, but music has always been my passion. Even though I haven’t been musically trained, a few years back I finally decided to buy a keyboard and to just try and express myself musically, so I started playing around with different tunes and beats and I just started posting it up online. Before I knew it I was contacted by an independent record label in the US asking me to release an album through them. That really gave me the confidence to keep working on my music and I guess I’m still learning a lot and I just try to keep working at it.
Baha’i Blog: So tell us why you started Bluebottle Records and what you hope to achieve with it.
Bluebottle Records aims to create hip-hop, R’n’B and soul music with a conscious twist. I wanted to start a label which would give myself and my friends an avenue to release our music. I wanted to have complete creative control as well as contractual control so our dealings would be fair.
As a label we want to create a movement of consciousness! People of all walks of life today are sucked into materialism, and unfortunately a lot of music often reflects this, so we are trying to put the ‘soul’ back into music! Continue reading