VANCOUVER, Canada — A growing number of young people in Vancouver have been exploring how music can awaken noble sentiments and provide comfort and inspiration to their peers.
The songs they create draw on their own experiences and those of their friends to explore the stories of adolescent youth undergoing significant changes in their lives as they become more conscious of their spiritual identity and their potential to contribute to society.
This initiative arises from the efforts of these youth who are exploring concepts in Bahá’í educational programs that aim to cultivate the ability of young people to serve society and develop their artistic expression.
Youth facilitators of these programs have observed that by focusing on the power of language to shape one’s understanding of the world, these programs assist the younger participants to better express their thoughts and convictions, strengthening their ability to resist negative influences such as consumerism.
One of the songs made by the youth, Listen Closer, explores the idea of overcoming the pressures of materialism:
This voice is telling me to live for pleasure
Strive for leisure, give into pressure
But we need something of meaning to measure
When we hear truth, that’s the real treasure
Dinuk, who facilitates youth groups in his neighborhood, says: “It’s really different from pop culture music that youth are exposed to, where it’s more about making provocative statements. In contrast to that, we really wanted to create music that would allow youth to see themselves as protagonists.
“A good example of this is one of the songs that is about a youth who notices that someone’s being bullied and considers what choices they could make in that situation.”
Bell rings it’s time for lunch
I see my friends together
Then I see, someone alone
Someone I’ve never talked to
Should I go and say hello
I want to show I care
I know my friends are watching me
Wondering what I’ll do?
Shadi, one of the organizers of the initiative, speaks about the power of music to influence the listener, saying, “If you play music to somebody with negative language over many months, they will start talking like that.”
Jason, a participant, adds that the challenges some of his peers face are compounded by the negative messages in popular music. “Then you add this other layer of negative music, and when they’re saying the words, it’s not helping them, and it’s actually sad to watch.”
Shadi notes that listening to positive, uplifting music has a vastly different effect on one’s being and behavior, highlighting the unique power of music to impact the human spirit.
Aaliyah, another facilitator of the youth groups, describes the songs emerging from the initiative as an “an untapped area of music, with lyrics that uphold positive values… Like having music that’s cool to listen to, but about things that we can identify with.”
The initiative takes a collaborative songwriting approach. “The songs never belong to any one person,” says Shadi.
Participants, all of whom have varying degrees of musical experience, gather every three months for two consecutive weekends. During these sessions, they reflect on spiritual concepts, such as consultation, the importance of service, and the nature of true friendship. They also discuss the challenges and needs of their neighborhoods. These meetings provide the inspiration for the songs the youth create.
The initiative in Vancouver is among many others throughout the world where people participating in Bahá’í community-building activities are learning about the power of music to inspire hope and action toward the betterment of society.
The News Service has previously reported on similar initiatives that work closely with Bahá’í training institutes. In Ecuador, a series of seminars has sparked songs about social change. Meanwhile, a group of youth in New Zealand have been exploring how music can enhance their understanding of moral concepts, and in Zambia, music has been an essential element in the development efforts of the Lunda people.