Well, devotional music can go far beyond those categories. In fact, real soul music only has one requirement – it has to move you toward a higher spiritual plane, giving your inner reality a reason to soar. In recent cases like the Civil Rights and anti-Apartheid movements, music has become inseparable from the causes that have propelled humanity forward. That’s why we created the Badasht Project.
The Badasht Project began as a response to powerful statements about music and the arts in the Baha’i teachings:
The art of music is divine and effective. It is the food of the soul and spirit. Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 52.
In the mid-2000s, my wife Katie and I began to consult friends interested in this often-overlooked aspect of our Faith, searching for ways to increase the role of the arts – and creative thinking in general – in the development of the Baha’i community. We took part in some inspiring collaborative projects in Victoria, BC, where we fortunately and fatefully ran into gospel musician Eric Dozier. Eric and I immediately began doing musical arrangements and fresh compositions based on moving spiritual quotations from the Baha’i Writings. People heard the songs, began to sing them, and asked us to record them. We put together a CD, and in 2007 we released Badasht Vol. 1 – While the City Sleeps.
The conference of Badasht, held in Persia in 1848, created an important turning point in Baha’i history. Both The Bab and Baha’u’llah challenged their early followers to detach from the prevailing norms, prejudices and identities of their place and time, and begin to truly see themselves as the embodiments of a fresh Revelation – what Baha’u’llah would later call ‘a new race of men.’ The courageous behavior of the famed poetess Tahirih exemplified this spirit, when she dared to break the conventions of her culture by appearing unveiled before the gathering at Badasht and announcing, ‘I am the blast of the trumpet, the call of the bugle, like Gabriel I will awaken sleeping souls…!’ Four years later, Tahirih was killed for her embrace of the Baha’i principle of the equality of men and women. Inspired by their heroism and sacrifice, the Project hopes its namesake will help spread the pioneering spirit of Badasht in our own time.
Badasht Volumes I, II and III
Since starting the Badasht Project, Eric and I have traveled far and wide, working with communities and schools, collaborating with artists and institutions, learning more about bringing a creative spark to spiritual endeavors. In the process, we put together Badasht Vol. II – Raise Me Up, and began the process of collecting the music that would form our third release, Visionaries, a wildly diverse compilation of songs featuring young artists and mentors.
It seemed fitting that the release of this youth-centered album would happen in the wake of the historic 114 Baha’i youth conferences that took place around the world in 2013. But for us, the new album seemed like a natural progression from what began as primarily a collaboration between two musicians, to a greatly expanded global community of talented artists, young and not-so-young. This double album rocks – not just from a musical perspective, and not just from the wide range of styles it represents, but from a deep place of spirit that can’t help but take the listener along on the journey.
Of course, I don’t have the space to tell you about all 21 songs (and at least as many artists), but you’ll hear many of their stories in future articles here on BahaiTeachings.org, directly from some of the artists themselves. I will say, however, that I’m very proud to have been involved with this music on every level, whether as producer, co-writer or simply as curator. To see musicians and songwriters, especially the youngest ones, creating works whose chief aim is the upliftment of the soul – and executing it with such high standards and sincerity of purpose – has been a huge source of encouragement and motivation.
Our hope is that Visionaries and the Badasht Project in general will serve to open people’s eyes to the possibility of unbridled creative interaction with the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, Whose Writings are often — and significantly, I believe — referred to as ‘The Creative Word.’
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