Cloud9 is a podcast produced by Baha’i Teachings. Its aim is to feature interviews with artists and discuss what inspires them to make a positive contribution to the world. In this episode, Baha’i Teachings’ arts editor Shadi Toloui-Wallace interviews Benn Good or Benny Cassette, who signed to a major record label at the age of 18, has produced music and collaborated with John Legend, Kanye West, Sza, Miguel, Allen Stone, and countless other prominent musicians who dominate the charts today. Continue reading
Bellwood Press has created a series of books for junior youth and young readers called the Change Maker series which tells the true stories of individuals who worked to bring about positive social change. So far the series includes three titles: Robert Sengstacke Abbott: A Man, a Paper, and a Parade; John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop; and Richard St. Barbe Baker: Child of the Trees.
Susan Engle authored the first two titles, and I wanted to hear more from her about the book about Dizzy Gillespie (you may also remember Susan from when she shared all about her enchanting tiny books). Susan is a delight and I hope you enjoy this conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about who Dizzy Gillespie was?
If you had lived in his neighborhood when he was a child, you might have heard his family and neighbors calling out, using his first two names as is a southern tradition, “John Birks, sit a spell, why don’t you?” He was constantly on the move. When he was in elementary school, he was provided with a trombone for a small school band. From then on, he channeled most of his energy into playing music. Since his arms were too short to play all the notes on trombone, he would often borrow a neighbor’s trumpet, taking turns with Brother Harrington, practicing for hours at a time. As he grew and became better and better, finally leaving South Carolina for Philadelphia and New York City in his teens, he had years of playing and working out sounds and keys for trumpet tunes under his belt.
Trying out for the Freddie Fairfax Band when he was about 18, one of the band members said, “That dizzy little cat’s from down South.” The nickname “Dizzy” stuck. By the time he had helped bring about a new style of jazz called Bebop, performed for more than one President of the United States, traveled around the world for the State Department, and recorded dozens of records, Dizzy was well-known and loved—not only by many of his fellow musicians, but by jazz fans across the U.S. and around the world. He had many official and unofficial titles, including “King of the Trumpet,” “Ambassador of Jazz,” and “Diz the Wiz.” By the end of his life, he had also received many awards including 14 honorary degrees, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, and the Kennedy Center Honors. He even has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.
Dizzy Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993). Photo courtesy of Roland Godefroy, accessed from Wikimedia Commons.
From childhood, John Birks Gillespie—famously nicknamed “Dizzy” in his teens—stood out: in his school, in his family, among his musical colleagues. According to Mrs. Wilson, his third-grade teacher, she would say to him, “John, do you have your lessons?” He would reply, “‘Yeah, I got it, I got it, Mrs. Wilson, I got it.’ And when the time for recitations came, he would know it. How? I don’t know, because he wouldn’t study.” Continue reading
What happens when the musical powerhouse duo known as Nabil & Karim, join forces with the musical powerhouse known as Anise? The birth of an awesome new collaborative album called Thief in the Night – that’s what happens!
Thief in the Night was created in honor of the bicentenary anniversaries of the Births of Baha’u’llah and the Bab, and this new combination of talents has created an awesome musical dynamic.
I got in touch with the three of them to find out more about the album and the process behind their musical collaboration, and here’s what they said:
The Americas – North, Central and South America – are the home to over 980 Indigenous Nations, and these Nations all have different languages, traditions, clothing, housing, diets, etc. I am for instance from the South-western United States, but am part Apache, part Pueblo, and part Yaqui, but most people would just see me as a ‘Native American’ without much thought to the diversity of culture which exists within Indigenous America. Continue reading
Rap artist Randy’d’dawn has released an album of Baha’i-inspired music titled New Day. Although unnamed, I first came across his work on the official website of the world-wide bicentenary celebrations of Birth of the Bab with this music video called “The Story of Love – The Bab, The Gate“. His gentle yet profound lyrics and his catchy rhythms were easy to recognize when I stumbled across New Day. I caught up with him to hear all about his work and I hope you enjoy our conversation: Continue reading
In the early days of Baha’i Blog’s Studio Sessions series, The Licata Brothers, Jimmy and Tony, were among some of the first we recorded (they sang “O Thou Divine Providence” and “Is There Any Remover”). I remember these two young brothers coming into the studio in Los Angeles, and when they started singing, I was struck by the folksy, nostalgic, and classic pop-rock sound coming from these two young men. The singer/songwriter duo continue to share their gift of music with others, and they recently released an album called Kindle the Flame. I got back in touch with Jimmy and Tony about their new album, and asked about the process and inspiration behind their art. Here’s what they shared with us: Continue reading
Afshin Jaberi and I met in the year 2000 during a summer school in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This was where I first heard a beautiful piece that he composed for a drama inspired by The Dawn-Breakers. Back then he was engaged in his post- graduate studies at the Almaty Conservatoire while serving the Baha’i community of Kazakhstan. Born into a Baha’i pioneering family, Afshin Jaberi was deeply affected by the early history of the Baha’i Faith, the hardships of its Founders’ lives, and the heroes who sacrificed everything for the establishment of a new religion. Later in life Afshin found a creative outlet in music to convey his emotion and feelings about those historic events. I reconnected with Afshin to talk about his music and his recent album, Eroica, which is a musical tribute to the Bab.
As a huge fan of rap – especially the “conscious” kind – and with a personal passion for listening to global hip-hop artists no matter what language they rap in, I was excited to meet Ahdi, a Persian rapper based in the United States, and who, for over a decade now, has been “spittin’ out lyrics” in Persian relating to racism, drug abuse, the equality of women and men, and other social issues including the oppression of his fellow Baha’is in Iran.
Ahdi recently released a track called ‘Toloue Bamdad (Rise of Dawn)‘ in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, and so with a stack of tracks behind him, I decided it was time to catch up with my dear friend Ahdi, to find out more about him and his music: Continue reading
Danny Stevenson is a friend I met years ago in Namibia, and some of you may recognize him from his Baha’i Blog Studio Session recorded in the UK called “Crimson Ink”. It’s always great to hear when someone who’s participated in our Studio Sessions series goes on to record their first album, so I was excited when I heard that Danny has released Worlds Within, a devotional album inspired by the Baha’i Writings.
I wanted to find out more about the album and the inspiration behind it, so here’s what Danny shared with me: Continue reading