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The source of inspiration for the band Smith and Dragoman (Brett Smith and Mike Dragoman) goes beyond mere minds – in fact, to these musicians, their creative source comes from the Divine.
All of the members of the band have their own unique talents and musical perspective, and as musicians they find influences in many things that work in parallel with their faith. But their music has its roots in the Baha’i teachings:
Music is an important means to the education and development of humanity, but the only true way is through the Teachings of God. Music is like this glass, which is perfectly pure and polished. It is precisely like this pure chalice before us, and the Teachings of God, the utterances of God, are like the water. When the glass or chalice is absolutely pure and clear, and the water is perfectly fresh and limpid, then it will confer Life; wherefore, the Teachings of God, whether they be in the form of anthems or communes or prayers, when they are melodiously sung, are most impressive. It was for this reason that His Holiness David sang the psalms in the Holy of Holies at Jerusalem with sweet melodies. In this Cause the art of music is of paramount importance. The Blessed Perfection, Baha’u’llah, when He first came to the barracks (Acca) repeated: “If among the immediate followers there had been those who could have played some musical instrument, i.e., flute or harp, or could have sung, it would have charmed every one.” In short, musical melodies form an important role in the associations, or outward and inward characteristics, or qualities of man, for it is the inspirer or motive power of both the material and spiritual susceptibilities. What a motive power it is in all feelings of love! When man is attached to the Love of God, music has a great effect upon him. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West XV, p. 130.
Heroes and heroines provide positive examples to the human spirit. The decisions they make cause a ripple effect, which unquestionably leads to inspiration for others. For example, the heroic stories of the early days of the Baha’i Faith have found a musical host more than a century later in Smith and Dragoman’s inspiring lyrics and compositions.
Among the many songs they’ve composed, Mike reserved some specifically for a female vocal (Khadijih’s Lament, Divine Tapestry). The lyrics, in both Arabic and Persian, are direct quotes from the Writings of the Bab, quoted from the book “God Passes By”.
Mike and Brett asked Mike’s 16-year-old daughter Emily to sing these two songs. Mike hadn’t heard his daughter sing since she was a child. He said, “Imagine my delight to hear this angelic voice that seemed to have been created just for this purpose.”
Emily sang each of the seven or eight female vocal harmonies effortlessly, while reading the unfamiliar languages phonetically. Both members of the band explained they recorded a first take for each vocal part that Emily sang, and that they had always planned to go back and re-record them, but never did. “So what that recording has captured is the first time those words were ever sung with that melody,” Brett said, “to be preserved for all time.”
Emily became a staple in the band at that point. Aaron Ferrera was also involved from the beginning, offering musical advice and laying down drum and rhythm tracks throughout the recordings. Asher Lenz, working for his father Jack at the time, was brought in to co-produce the CD, and has been with the band as a producer and arranger ever since — and more recently as a percussion and keyboard player. Asher and Emily, now married, have more recently contributed to some of the writing, especially on the last CD titled, “The Mystery” with the tracks Land and Sea and Trust Among Us.
Smith and Dragoman try to reproduce a “cinematic” sound in their live performances, aided by John Ebata, a keyboard virtuoso, who often plays three keyboards at once. He is able to bring to life some of the eastern sounds like the oud and the duduk, while also playing bass and pads/strings to accompany Mike’s piano melodies. “There have been other notable members throughout the past 10 years, especially Chris Church (violinist for Jesse Cook) who have played and recorded with us. We would not be where we are today without their professionalism, talent and passion for the music” Brett added.
Music is universal. Music is essential to the rhythm of our life. Music affects our mind and spirit, allowing us to feel what we often hide. Music teaches us discipline and leadership. Music can motivate, inspire, distract, or offer an escape – ultimately, music allows us to communicate.
You can listen to Smith and Dragoman’s most well-known song – Divine Tapestry – here:
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Read the previous article in the series: Martyrdom, Heroes and the Voice in the Flame