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We usually think of martyrs as people who have unwittingly sacrificed their lives for a noble purpose, not to intentionally try to become heroes, but because they love and sacrifice for their cause.
But martyrs don’t need to always sacrifice their lives for a cause – sometimes they just give sacrificially of their time or their talents to inspire us toward a greater cause. Often the most wonderful inspiration comes from music, which can express everything we are and long to become.
One of the most powerful voices I’ve heard lately comes from a band named ‘Smith and Dragoman’. They write and perform uplifting, inspirational songs that make your heart feel joy and sadness – like their song “Voice in the Flame”.
The name Smith and Dragoman comes from the band’s founding members, Brett Smith and Michael Dragoman. These two visionaries stand tall, humble with a calm presence — but once they unleash their sound they will make your heart boil with adoration.
Brett and Michael met in the city of Guelph (near Toronto) in the mid-‘90s. Their song “Voice in the Flame”
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captures the love and devotion of Sulayman Khan, one of the most well-known of the 20,000 19th-Century Babi martyrs, who were tortured and killed for professing their new Faith. Rather than recant his belief, Sulayman Khan gave his life in 1852. Smith and Dragoman sing about his martyrdom because Sulayman Khan, by giving his life for his beliefs, became a symbol of detachment and a spiritual hero to millions:
When they arrested Sulayman Khan, and strove, in consideration of his faithful service and loyalty, to induce him, by promises of rewards from the king, to abandon the creed which he had adopted, he would not consent, but answered firmly: ‘His Majesty the King has a right to demand from his servants fidelity, loyalty, and uprightness; but he is not entitled to meddle with their religious convictions. – Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 620.
I first experienced Smith and Dragoman last month in Arizona. I closed my eyes without any expectation, and the melodies they played deeply touched me. I noticed as the bodies both young and old swayed to the uniting beat; that the audience became one color, one gender and orientation — just from the power of the song. Smith and Dragoman created an evening of joyous tears. The warm embrace of the music washed over all of us in that very moment, we felt what makes us feel, and we knew what makes us human.
Smith and Dragoman began playing at Baha’i events and coffee houses doing cover songs, when someone suggested to them that they compose their own music. Now this band finds their inspiration through reading the Baha’i Writings. The history of the Baha’i faith has taught them about the indomitable nature of the human spirit, as Brett so eloquently describes. They sing about the heroes and heroines of the faith as true living examples of certitude, devotion, courage and love.
Smith and Dragoman creatively remind us of these heroic stories through their music: “Our intent with this music,” Brett says, “is to draw us closer to Baha’u’llah’s revelation and to hopefully provide a means where the heart and soul can connect with that Spirit.”
Brett explained that he was reading the book of Baha’i and Babi history The Dawn-Breakers, and extremely inspired by its stories, approached Dragoman with the idea of putting them to music. After some minor convincing, their first CD project was born — ‘Open the Gates’. They connected early on with music producer, composer and family friend Jack Lenz, who offered to produce their music through Lenz Entertainment.
Smith and Dragoman’s music reminds us who we are and what we love. We may have different tastes in music, but one thing remains — music fills our souls and we become one.
Read the next article in the series: Music with Purpose and Intention