At Cloud9, we explore the intersection of art and spirituality through conversations with Baha’i artists from around the world. These artists bring diverse perspectives on the Baha’i Faith, and the influence that their faith and spiritual practice has had on their own creative practice and service to their communities. To date, Cloud9 has produced over 35 episodes. Each episode captures unique stories, reflections, and experiences, offering insight into the role that art has in advancing society and uniting humanity.
We’re thrilled to introduce this episode’s guest artist, known as Benn Good or Benny Cassette, who has been exploring these concepts for more than 20 years!
Signed to a major record label at the age of 18, he has produced music and collaborated with John Legend, Kanye West, Sza, Miguel, Allen Stone, and countless other prominent musicians who dominate the charts today.
We start off our conversation by congratulating Benn on his recent Grammy nomination for Best R&B song – Collide – which he wrote and produced, and which appeared on the Queen & Slim movie soundtrack. Benn shares what this all means to him, as it’s technically his sixth Grammy nomination, but his first one as a solo artist.
We continue by learning about how the pandemic, quarantine, and lockdown have opened up opportunities for service, reflection and elevated conversation amongst the musicians, community members, and colleagues in Benn’s life. He shares how this period of enforced solitude has changed and affected the way he works as a musician, introducing opportunities on his creative path that he wouldn’t have expected.
Then we take a step back in time to learn about Benn’s childhood and youth on the Eastside of Los Angeles. We ask him to paint a picture of what that experience was like, and the influence it had in those formative years of his life. Reflecting on this complex environment and all the positive and negative forces he was exposed to, we ask Benn to share how he first came across the Baha’i Faith, and what first caught his attention. Benn tells an engaging story that involves a touring arts group and the opportunity to perform in prisons and schools, and the projects that later ensue.
Our conversation then turns to the meaning of true happiness. As an artist, Benn creates work informed by his lived experience, which is received in a very real and relatable way by his audience. His work doesn’t shy away from the harsher and darker aspects of life. But with that said, Benn’s music reveals an awareness that despite being in the trenches, a world of light exists on the other side. We ask Benn to reflect on the following words by the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, and how he might relate to them in his own life when reflecting on the concept of true happiness: “Man is in reality a spiritual being, and only when he lives in the spirit, is he truly happy.”
Benn describes the impact that the sacred scriptures of the Baha’i Faith have in his work by reflecting on the importance of the arts, crafts, music and sciences in the Baha’i writings—which, as this quotation from Selections of the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha shows, encourage the pursuit of excellence in all things, and liken that pursuit to an act of worship:
… in accordance with the divine teachings the acquisition of sciences and the perfection of arts are considered acts of worship. If a man engageth with all his power in the acquisition of a science or in the perfection of an art, it is as if he has been worshipping God in churches and temples.
Benn shares some of his favourite Baha’i writings and how they shape and inspire his work as an artist, like this one from Baha’u’llah’s Most Holy Book: “We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high. Change it not into wings for self and passion.”
Benn shares how the Baha’i writings help him stay grounded and not get caught up in all the focus on fame, notoriety and materialism that has become so pervasive in the industry, particularly in a city like Los Angeles. As a Baha’i and an artist who works in the music business meeting with musicians, record labels and executives, we close the interview by asking Benn to share what he believes is missing in these spaces from a spiritual perspective, and what the Baha’i teachings offer as a solution.
Learn more about Benn Good:
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