Street Drummers

Make your feet firm; withstand the creeds (or multitudes); chant the Book; and explain mysteries through an inspiration on the part of your Exalted Lord, the possessor of glory and honor! – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 348.

Music as an expression of culture has the power to uncover truth and affect change in the world. It unites the masses and transforms the hearts and minds of people. Without a higher purpose behind it however, it can easily become frivolous. It has to say something; to be created in the spirit of service to others. Through service, music finds a use and inspires.

Every movement has its music. It helps divided people unite, and those who struggle to push on. Songs that serve to quicken the soul, “unite and bind together the hearts”, uplift the spirit, and inspire us to keep on serving all mark a legacy of effort, love, sacrifice, and faith. We can all contribute to an ongoing narrative by lifting up our voices and singing for our lives.

The overarching theme of my life has been that in service to others using the talents I’ve been given, confirmations come, new capabilities develop, and the way to progress becomes clear. Through learning from and serving alongside others I grow, am tested, and transform. The music grows and changes too, and I become a more effective instrument.

Writing MusicThis theme is a road map. Through God’s confirmation, I was able to develop some writing and musical skills, which have continued to assist me to serve others better. Through accompaniment I made a contribution to the cultivation of a rich and self-sustaining culture of collective worship and community singing, throughout Oregon and Western Washington.

True Freedom on the Badasht III: Visionaries album is a humble attempt to capture the sounds and spirit of the Oregon music culture I grew up in, and to share insights some concepts from the Word of God.

The first verse and hook line of this song came in meditation during a devotional gathering I frequented in Corvallis Oregon, in 2010. Suddenly something clicked and I had a profound epiphany — that we achieve true freedom through obedience to God — and it burst from my lips with the melody you now hear. This was exciting for me because up to then I had been unable to articulate why I felt such discomfort with the notion of Freedom that so many cultures seemingly champion.

The “brand” of freedom that I see, perpetuated especially in American culture, places undue importance and worth on material wealth, fame, and tangible gains; it over-emphasizes the individual to the detriment of the whole and encourages the vain imaginings of those that subscribe to it. It champions materialism, individualism, and relativism and weighs in the balance the worth of people based on materialistic rather than spiritual values.

This created cognitive dissonance within me. Questions I felt unable to articulate at the time would just stay in my head running in circles. “Doesn’t this kind of freedom only signify a new bondage? Aren’t we becoming slaves to the transitory? Does this conception hinge one’s happiness on the ability to act without regard to others? Maybe this idea of freedom is a veiled miscalculation of a greater truth, and that if this limited understanding were in fact true it would seem to lead to nonexistence rather than existence.”

Finally I found the words and concepts to articulate my thoughts, and this chant became my constant companion, the one I leaned on in hard times. I was restless with it though. Every time I sat down to write more verses to accompany the idea I found myself utterly impotent.

Then, in the spring of 2011 during a visit to Los Angeles to record some backup vocals for Badasht Vol II, I decided on a whim to share the verse and melody with my dear friend JB Eckl –who instantly got behind it. At his suggestion we perused one of Baha’u’llah’s tablets called Words of Wisdom, and the rest of the verses quickly fell into place. Then, through JB’s genius, the song was arranged and recorded to capture the feeling of Worship in the Northwest.

I hope True Freedom inspires you and spurs you on in your efforts to cultivate an artistic, loving and supportive culture in your own localities. With Love, Yosi.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

1 Comment

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  • Mark Yazhari
    Aug 24, 2016
    Beautifully written, Yosi. I've always loved hearing your voice and passion for music at Camp Carmel, and I look forward to seeing how you continue to advance and grow both as an artist and as a person. Great job teaching the youth about stories from the Dawn Breakers this year at Carmel, by the way!
    –Mark