A former Capitol Hill US-Iran peace strategist gains local support from Bali community leaders as he launches an ambitious and unconventional project of reconciliation between the Middle East and Western world through the power of music.
Now a Bali-based sound therapist and vocalist, Shervin Boloorian’s latest endeavour is a cross-cultural music activism project centred around a new Sufi-influenced album. Contained are sacred songs with wisdom from world-revered 13th Century Sufi poet Rumi, all in original Persian and Arabic languages.
The project is already making waves here in Bali, recruiting over a dozen major local holistic businesses, cultural groups and leaders endorsing the album in a first-of-its kind local initiative. Indonesian Artist and Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) spokesperson Amron Paul Yowono believes the project has already rallied strong support because of “the spirit of peace embodied by Shervin’s project”. “ARMA endorses it, and others are invited to as well,” said Yowono.
Boloorian’s forthcoming album ‘One with the Beloved’ is being crowd-funded with hopes of igniting a greater ongoing global movement and dialogue between audiences from the East and West, finding common ground around universal messages in Sufi texts, as well as through Boloorian’s music. The story of the album is a reflection of my own journey, going from a very alienated and troubled place to one of more calm, which Bali helped instil,” said Boloorian.
“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 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival director Janet DeNeefe. “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’s music offers an extraordinary, healing journey with mystical sounds, traditional and new, that remind us that love and understanding is the only way forward,” she added. Among Bali organisations joining DeNeefe and ARMA in support are Ahimsa in Action, Akasha Creative Hub, Alchemy Raw Food Academy, Bali Silent Retreat Center, Bali Spirit Festival, Bali Storytellers Festival, Casa Luna, Namaste: the Spiritual Shop, Radiantly Alive and Taksu Bali.
Today, Rumi is still a top selling author in the USA, respected across both Western and Muslim worlds with his works translating into 23 different languages. Boloorian explained Rumi’s voice was perfect for such an album as it 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. “A sacred music project drawing from Rumi’s original language creates something new and positive for people to absorb in terms of Iran, Islam and the Middle East.”
Since leaving his Washington D.C. policy advisor role, Boloorian U-turned into one of Bali’s most popular and celebrated multi-instrumentalists and vocalists in residence, after training at a respected sound healing academy and spearheading a movement in 2012 to make sound therapy concerts part of Ubud’s live music culture. Boloorian launched the campaign last month to complete his album and embark on an international live music workshop tour, where he hopes to generate further global support for the project at a grass-roots level by “shifting audiences’ attitudes through experiential engagement”. “If the momentum is there, I see this blossoming into a global collaborative,” predicts Boloorian. “Music and the arts are agents of change and awareness, we haven’t seen them reach their full potential yet.”
This project is particularly close to Boloorian’s heart, after his own experiences as an Iranian refugee migrating to the UK in 1978. He first experienced powerful effects from sound as a child after discovering the ability to hum to himself as a method of providing comfort and emotional support during highly traumatic and stressful periods in his young life. “I was three when I left Iran, my country of birth, and joined the many millions who no longer had an official home state,” said Boloorian. “One of the most devastating experiences the psyche can undergo is to lose a home.”
Spending over nine years in Washington and Sacramento, Boloorian led and advised US-Iran peace coalitions and reviewed a 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. After nearly a decade, Boloorian decided it was time to leave politics to reconnect with the power of sound he had discovered as a child, becoming a Tama-Do certified sound therapist, musician and vocalist. “I became a sound therapist because I realised peace is more about soulful living, not just some distant ideal. That meant coming back to basics and putting personal harmony first which I didn’t have in D.C.,” he said.
Boloorian is now turning his efforts towards engaging a wider global audience as his Kickstarter enters its final month. “I’m urging visitors, other local, national and international groups, businesses and community figures to join this alliance and back us in any way you can. We need to first push the Kickstarter over the finish line,” he said. “I know people anywhere can be touched by these messages and the music is just as universal.”
The One with the Beloved campaign concludes on July 25. Experience Shervin Boloorian’s Sound Medicine sound healing concerts in July every Wednesday @ 7:30pm – The Yogabarn. Shervin will lead special Sacred Sound and live music events on Sunday, July 16 @ 2:30pm (Indigenous Dreamtime), Sufi Sounds on Sunday, July 23 @3pm (Connect to the Beloved) and July 31 @ 7:30pm (Spirit Night: Sacred World Music and Healing Sounds) at the Yogabarn.
Info surrounding Shervin Boloorian’s project can be found at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1220106062/rumi-music-healing-project-one-with-the-beloved. Learn more about Shervin Boloorian’s Tour schedule starting in August www.soundhealingbali.com.