Q: What inspired your new album?
SB: It’s an album of sacred songs, and chants from ancient texts. Each one has a positive message and is recorded in the original Persian or Arabic. The songs on my album “One with the Beloved” are mostly original compositions and others are my versions of traditional Sufi Mantras and folk songs.
Q: How did your upbringing influence this album?
SB: I grew up in Britain in an Iranian refugee household. We spoke Farsi at home (Persian) My parents had lost virtually everything in Iran. It was humbling to experience being an outsider and to learn the importance of compassion and friendship at a young age from certain English friends we had who were kind to us. I went to the US to go to college after getting my GCSE.
Iranians revere figures like Rumi (a 13th century philosopher and poet), whose texts are the main inspiration for the lyrics used in my album. Rumi himself was a refugee who had a revelation which transformed his creativity. I resonate with Rumi’s journey and his wisdom is timeless and universal to me. Leonard Cohen and Coldplay are among the most well known musical artists who have been inspired by his messages, yet his name seems to fall into obscurity. I am hoping to change that through my new album.
Q: Can you explain more about your vision of unity over separation?
SB: Whenever there is political violence that may hold a person in dread or despair that you pause before judgement and consider that this is a desperate act and not how people normally are. Of course some will say that is already happening, but is it really sinking into our consciousness that Islam, Middle Easterners or people of faith in general are not a danger? When people make these claims, they are attacking every person of faith and rather than to debate which side is wrong or right, I wanted to make a contribution showing the world that there is a universalist message from within a faith, which is wrongly associated with violence.
We in the West are urgently lacking when it comes to reversing stereotypes in a meaningful way about civilisations that we have been at odds with. Policies of alienation and adversity are outdated and are not working as they stand. We need to start focusing on humanising and not ostracising those we cannot understand—and engaging from that place. That means calling on imagery, figures in history, literature and artistic expressions that can help us regain a more complete picture of those who have been our so called “enemies”. If we can do it in a way that is relatable, then I believe, lives can change as well as perspectives.
I believe everyone can relate to a figure like Rumi because of the tremendous appeal of his writings and it’s no accident that he is experiencing a resurgence today at a time when our relationship with the Middle East is at its most chaotic. We need more of his voice.
Q: What measures do you feel people could take to try to overcome the current worldwide barriers of political mistrust?
SB: I could say what everybody else says: “vote” “be engaged civically” and “write to your elected Rep” and generally I would respond in such a way, BUT the truth is we’ve had colossal failures when it comes to our policies concerning the Middle East.
When it comes to something like our relationship with Iran for example (and I worked in Washington on this issue) there is a lack of reliable information and it creates this sense of desolation no matter what we do or where we turn. Historically, when our institutions are gridlocked, it’s up to the grassroots to get involved and to come up with alternative ways of pursuing the positive change that we urgently need. That’s not practical or easy when there is a large distance and gap in cultural awareness.
Music and the Arts are powerful tools in rebuilding that human bridge. Their potential is untapped here, and if we can make these tools accessible and personal, if we can trace the relationships between societal wounds and the wounds and fears within each person’s individual consciousness that exists, then there is hope, and I believe Rumi would approve.
Q: What is Sound Healing and how did you first come across this?
It’s a holistic modality that involves vibration and frequency (not just music) and it can have positive effects on the consciousness and the physiology. I learned about the cellular research that Fabien Maman was doing on blood cells and their response to sound vibration and was inspired to become a practitioner. I went on train at Fabien’s Tama-Do Academy of Sound, Color and Movement and became certified as a sound therapist in 2011, two years after leaving my career in Washington DC.
Q:You have worked in the past with many major businesses such as Google to provide their teams with Sound Healing and Talks. How did this come about and what has been the feedback and positive impact of these?
SB: I had someone who took a workshop with me in Bali who worked at Google. They invited my to their offices and I did a presentation for them in Singapore and had a great response. I have also done corporate events in Bali and shared about my personal journey to retreats and private groups as well as giving a demonstration of the deeply relaxing effects of the different instruments I play.
DC Strategist Turned Sound Therapist Launches Bold Music Campaign
Former Capitol Hill coalition strategist on US-Iran policy Shervin Boloorian embarks on an unconventional project of reconciliation between the Middle East and West through the power of music.
Boloorian, now a top certified sound therapist in Bali, launched a cross-cultural music project centred around his new album of sacred songs, with some wisdom from world-revered 13th century Sufi poet Rumi, all in original Persian and Arabic languages.
Guided by other music activism campaigns such as Live AID, and the Free Mandela concerts in the 1980s, Boloorian wants this project to raise awareness and start a positive wave of interest in Middle East and Western commonalities through music that he says goes beyond entertainment.
“Music and the arts are agents of change and education, we haven’t seen them reach their full potential yet because our focus today is on light entertainment.”
Boloorian’s new album, ‘One with the Beloved’ is currently being crowdfunded with the goal of leveraging its songs to support live music workshops, community forums and other engagement activities.
The first song from the album, ‘Baza’ received praise by renowned dance music DJs Timo Maas and Nick Warren who both gave the track a 5 star reviews.
“‘A beautiful, delicate piece of music.”
“…this is a brilliant song, full of emotions and very well arranged…Perfect for chill out/” read some of the online reviews.
The Sufi-inspired compositions vary in tempo and style; some recorded with meditative instruments used in Boloorian’s popular sacred sound concerts, and others with upbeat rhythms found in Sufi Zikr music.
Endorsed by leading Bali cultural and holistic community leaders, the project is also backed by world Rumi authority, bestselling translator and author of “The Essential Rumi” Coleman Barks.
British disarmament expert and British American Security Information Council head Paul Ingram is still part of the peace and security community Boloorian belonged to during his time in the US.
Ingram is a firm supporter of Boloorian’s unconventional new solution to repairing relations and start a positive dialogue between Middle Eastern and Western culture.
“There are many hundreds of thousands of people working explicitly for peace by addressing the symptoms of fear and conflict,” said Ingram.
“Shervin’s initiative to bring these together explicitly recognises a fundamental truth, that to work for peace you have to have peace in your heart.”
Prior to his days as recording music artist and sound therapist, Boloorian spent over nine years in Washington and Sacramento, leading and advising US-Iran peace coalitions, briefing elected officials, and reviewing a major coalition Iran policy brief sent to President Obama’s desk.
He worked with a number of congressional, non-profit and community leaders, Nobel Prize Laureates and ambassadors as an advocate for disarmament and avoiding war with Iran.
In recent years Boloorian U-turned away from his career as a peace policy strategist to become recognised as Asia’s premier “Tama-Do” sound therapist.
He spearheaded a movement in 2012 to incorporate sound therapy as part of Ubud’s live music culture and established the acclaimed Bali Sound Healers Collective.
This new project is particularly close to Boloorian’s heart, due to his past as an Iranian refugee migrating to the UK in 1978.
He first realised the magical healing power of sound as a child upon discovering the ability to hum to himself as a method of providing comfort and emotional support during this highly traumatic and stressful period in his young life.
“I was three when I left Iran and joined the many millions without a home nation,” said Boloorian.
“It’s a devastating experience and the story of the album is a reflection of my own journey, going from a very alienated and troubled place to one of inner calm,” said the Iranian-born vocalist.
After nearly a decade of working on policy reform, Boloorian decided it was time to leave DC and reconnect with the power of sound as a professional, becoming a certified sound therapist, musician and vocalist.
“I became a sound therapist because I realised peace was more about bringing soulful living back, not just some distant ideal,” he said.
Rumi is noted as the top selling poet author in the USA and is respected across the West and the Muslim world with his works translating into 23 different languages.
Boloorian explained Rumi’s voice easily crosses faith, nationality and ideology.
“Rumi’s popularity is surging just when the world’s relationship with the Islam and the Middle East seems at its lowest point. I see this as a paradox and an opportunity,” he said.
“I felt strongly that a sacred music project drawing from Sufi texts in Rumi’s original language creates something new for people to think about in terms of Iran, Islam and the Middle East.”
The sound therapist plans to incorporate story-telling and theatre events, forums for dialogue and collaborations between local musicians and those from migrant or refugee backgrounds in cities right across the world to follow a global tour.
“If the momentum is there, I see this as blossoming into a global collaborative,” predicts Boloorian.
“I’m urging international community and cultural groups, organisations, businesses and community figures to become a part of our project and to help assist us in whatever way they can.
We need help to push the Kickstarter over the finish line in the final weeks and help share the message that music can be a healing force,” he added.
The crowdfunding campaign concludes on July 25, 2017 with the ‘One with the Beloved’ tour beginning in August following the album’s scheduled release in September; with Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland already listed as destinations to be followed by dates for Asia, Australia and the US.
As a global ambassador for sound healing and motivating peace activity, Boloorian and his project have already been widely endorsed by many respected cultural groups, after appearing at some of the worlds most prominent wellness festivals and events including: MURFEST Wellness Festival (MAL), Byron Spirit Festival (AUS) , BaliSpirit Festival (INDO), Berlin Healing Arts Festival (GER) and , Talks at Google (SIN)
“Anyone who spends his time tackling the huge divide the world is currently experiencing with music and the teachings of Rumi is worth supporting,” said founder and director of the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival Janet De Neefe.
“Now more than ever we need to focus on the fundamental importance of peace and compassion to find a solution to our current global dilemma.
Shervin Boloorian’s music offers an extraordinary, healing journey with mystical sounds, both traditional and new”.
Learn more about Shervin’s unique campaign here:
Reviews of Boloorian’s new single: Album Reviews
Part 1 of interview Series:
© Lightening Magazine 2017