The seven years we spent living in Israel were vital to setting precedents for me - I grew up with friends from the United States, Germany, Philippines, the former Soviet States, Kenya, Zambia, New Zealand and India, and I know what you’re thinking and yes, photos from that period look a lot like Colours of Benetton ad’s. Spending day in and day out with people from every corner of the earth walking together on the path of service, instilled an unwavering sense of reverence and closeness to a Faith that could reach across cultural distinctions and bind so many people with a common cause. It was here that music began to stand out as another binder of souls. Like math and food, it seemed as though music too, was a language that every culture spoke.
And if it all sounds a little idyllic, it was. Of course, all good things come to an end, and when I was 9 years old we moved back to Australia and settled in sunny Brisbane. A few years on, when I was 11, I fell in love with the violin, and unfortunately it turned out to be unrequited. However as all miracles occur in hindsight, it was actually my spectacular failure at the violin that led my teacher to encourage disheartened 11 year old Shadi to look into vocal training. We started a nine member vocal group, and the following few years flew past in a blur of various professional children and youth choirs, Baha’i junior youth groups and summers spent at the identity-shaping Education for Peace programme in New South Wales. A few years later, came ‘My Bed’, my first song.
I was 16, and obviously major life concerns were staying close to home. But still, it was an important moment of discovery and it marked the awakening of my creative independence. With my first song under my belt and a strong sense of accomplishment, I started to experiment with different creative forms: dance, painting, sculpture, music composition etc. I realised that in musically professing my love for my bed, I had uncovered the key to my own Fort Knox and had discovered a warehouse of activities I had a relentless passion for.
Late nights with paints and guitar playing ensued, and physics marks suffered. In January 2008, having finished my first year of university studying media and communications, I decided to follow in my parents footsteps and fulfil a life-long ambition of serving as a cleaner at the Baha’i World Centre. Don’t let the title fool you – we, the cleaners (or ‘Janni’s’, as we lovingly refer to ourselves) are a proud people. It might sound strange that cleaning chandeliers and delicate gold plated gates with toothbrushes, can be an ambition for an 18 year old, but to literally be down on my hands and knees cleaning the physical centre of a religion I have investigated and fallen in love with, was a huge lesson in humility and devotion. We were up at 5.30 each morning to clean the buildings that hundreds of pilgrims pass through every day, and the phrase ‘work is worship’ was never so true.
To my fellow Janni-comrades all over the world, I salute you! My time in Haifa as an adult was like the advanced course in what I had learnt there as a child – once again I was living and breathing the spirit of service with 700 others from over 80 different countries. The difference was that this time around, we had iPod’s. I spent nine hours a day listening to music from every country my friends were from, and not only expanded my music knowledge but also my understanding of the relationship between music and service. Seeing so many people serving in so many different capacities at the World Centre, I learnt that the most noble thing we can do is use our own talents and skills to serve the Baha’i community. Whether you are a ceramic artist, a carpenter or a lawyer, we can marry the spirit of service with our work by maintaining strong principles of ethics, having good relationships with those we work with, and by producing the highest quality of work that we can.
I think that when we can do that, we can bring our faith into every moment of our day, into every action we take, instead of it being left as something to be done in our spare time. I came back to Australia at the beginning of 2009 with the knowledge that the best way I can serve the Faith and honour the extraordinary experiences I’ve had, is through my strongest skill – music. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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