I have a particular soft-spot for jazz so I was thrilled to find out Lukas Hein has released a Baha’i-inspired jazz album called Message from the New World. It’s a great listen with songs both devotional in nature and ones inspired by life as a Baha’i. It’ll warm your ears and your heart!
Here’s what Lukas shared with us about his album, what makes jazz special, who he collaborated with and how he hopes he’s infusing the world with beautiful and joyful music.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure, I’m the child of Baha’i parents from the USA who pioneered internationally to serve the Faith and humanity. As a result I’ve lived in quite a few places and travelled to more, as is typical for people in that demographic.
Musically, I started playing an instrument (cello) at 5 years old but became a saxophonist in middle school. I was a music major in college and studied music further for a master’s degree. Trying to grow as a jazz musician, learning to speak the language of music fluently, has been my life’s occupation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your style of music?
Yes, as I mentioned I primarily identify as a jazz musician. That word–jazz –can mean a lot of different things; what I mean by it is the musical language of the Western Hemisphere, in particular with its emphasis on cultural/stylistic synthesis and improvisation. Regarding the first of these, jazz originated primarily in the African-American Church through the integration of African and European musical and spiritual cultures, and as such serves as an example of the creative energy unleashed when the principle of unity in diversity is realized. To paraphrase Dizzy Gillespie, “Jazz is the music of the oneness of humanity.”
Improvisation in jazz is also reflective of spiritual principles of the Baha’i Faith. Rather than being constrained by lack of knowledge or by the dictates of expertise and authority, jazz musicians strive to develop “eloquent speech” in “the heart’s own language” in order to become dynamic, living channels of inspiration; the roles of the composer and the performer –the “knower” and the “doer”–are merged. There is also a dynamic relationship between the individual and the collective in the act of spontaneously creating something beautiful, just to briefly mention two Baha’i values that are uniquely realized in the art of jazz.
Having said all that, the kind of music that attracts me the most is music that combines danceable rhythms, singable melodies, sophisticated harmony and skilled improvisation into a style that is both musically nuanced and approachable. There is a lot of music that leans heavily on the sophisticated side but is somewhat unfriendly to the average person, and on the other hand there is an ocean of music that is remarkably simplistic and narrow. So I’m always doing my best to find a balance and avoid those extremes.
Can you tell us a little bit about Messages from the New World?
Yeah, it’s a collection of original songs in various jazz styles with lyrics that are either directly from the Writings of the Faith or are inspired by different aspects of life as a Baha’i. I wrote all of the songs at least in part, but most were co-creations with other musicians to varying degrees. “Infinite Love” is a composition that Camila (who sings on it as well) had mostly written but we finished it together.
I love Lenor Dely’s music, so I got in touch with her to record the vocals for “Los Niños” and she graciously did so. The other vocalists are all dear friends from various chapters in my life. The rhythm section is made up of some of Oregon’s finest jazz musicians, people who I have admired and learned from for many years. Mel Brown in particular; I attended his summer music camps a couple times as a youth, so having him involved with his impeccably tasty work on the drums was a real treat. He was actually the “house drummer” for Motown records for many years and is one of the relatively unsung heroes of American music.
What inspired you to produce this album?
Two things that I do every day are read the Baha’i Writings and play music, so combining them after decades of experience was a natural thing to do. I also noticed that despite having many world class Baha’i jazz musicians, there was nothing like this album –setting the Writings and Baha’i themes to this incredibly vital and expressive music. So while I’m far from the most qualified musician I set out to begin to fill that void.
Who is its audience? What do you hope your readers will take away with them long after they’ve finished listening?
Whoever wants to be! You know, there’s no accounting for taste, so what speaks to one person may fall flat for another, but I do hope that these “messages” –which are essentially of joy and beauty–will uplift the hearts of as many people as possible.
Thank you so much, Lukas, for taking the time to share this with us! It’s been wonderful to learn more about your album!
You can find Messages from the New World for purchase or download on 9StarMedia or on Bandcamp.
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she’s driving at night.