Hi, JB here. I thought it might be fun to get into the background of some of the original Badasht songs, who and what was involved, a few anecdotes and so on. Maybe it will bring out the inner music geek in you! We’ll start with the Healing Suite, from Badasht Vol. 1.
The creation of Healing Suite was one of the coolest musical experiences of my life. First of all, it was the first time Eric and I co-wrote anything from scratch, and the ease with which it all came together certainly set the tone for our writing relationship early on!
We were having dinner one night at the Skuce home in Sooke, BC, with a group of friends. Our hosts had just finished treating us to a fantastic Persian dinner and we all sat in the living room to say some prayers. I was playing some chords on the guitar; a favorite little progression of mine that had been laying around for over 10 years, and which I had tried to turn into a song maybe 5 different times with no results. I knew it would yield something eventually; it had a nice 70′s Stevie Wonder feel to it, and it resolved to major even though it was rooted in a minor key, an unusual device for me.
Eric heard it in the background and asked someone for a prayer book. I was used to this; he has a tendency to flip through books waiting for a passage to jump out and demand to be made into a song. This time he started right in with a soft, bluesy melody and sang the words ‘I call on Thee, O Exalted One…’
And this is the difference between Eric and me. He thought it perfectly normal to try to set the Long Healing Prayer to music, in real time, while a bunch of people casually look on. I, on the other hand, tend to go straight for the short passages – or at least the ones without the word ‘long’ in the title.
The way his melody fit the chords, however, and the way the mantra-like repetitions in the prayer resolved at the same time as the progression, was undeniable. We were going to write a Stevie-inspired soul version of the LHP.
When we got around to working it out as a full arrangement, we realized that it would be in the form of a suite, with several changes in style and tone, building very slowly toward some kind of funk-tastic climax at the end. We spent some time on his opening section, careful not to add any new elements until it absolutely needed a boost. He did a great job of keeping the vocals at a slow burn and not giving it all away… yet.
At that point we switched gears and went into a completely different sound – me singing with a lone acoustic guitar, in a style that definitely matched the quiet, rainy ambience of Vancouver Island. Harmonically it’s still related to the rest of the song, but loosely so. Christine Yvette, a wonderful singer introduced to me by my friend Gregory Ives who helped out on the production, created the whispery background vocals for this section, and Eric took a very meditative piano solo that still gets me every time.
When the song takes a turn back towards the city, we finally break out the drums, bass and wah-wah guitar (after all, what’s an epic scriptural suite with out some killer wah-wah?), and Eric picks up where he left off. This time though, he has occasion to pull out all the stops – and so does everyone else. This is one of those moments where Eric’s real-deal Gospel background shines through – every time you think he can’t kick it up another notch, it happens. I really dig the way he does that.
Tallis Newkirk speaks the next part of the prayer over a new progression played on the Rhodes, and then… Tracy appears. Another friend of Greg’s and a top-gun R/Gospel singer in Portland, Tracey Harris had worked on some Bahá’í-inspired projects in the past. She sang a lot of background vocals for us throughout the album, and when we got to this section she was already tired, so she put down a few (wonderful) takes and finally said she had to be getting home. The last take before she stopped was by far the best – I could hear that she wasn’t thinking about the lyrics, just feeling the spirit of the song. It was a funny producer moment, because it was time to let her go… but I couldn’t. I begged her for one last take, knowing it was going to be ‘the one.’ She graciously obliged, and the vocal you hear on the final track is that extra one we almost never got!
Where do you go from there? It was impossible for anyone to sing anything after Tracy gently glided to the end, so we asked Prudence Newkirk to simply read the rest of the prayer, as a sort of denoument. I’ve known Prudence since I was a youth, and always loved the way she reads prayers. The meaning just comes through. And that’s how the Healing Suite finally comes to a close, at about 19 minutes and zero seconds.
This post might be even longer than the Long Healing Prayer itself, but there you go. One down! I really have a special place in my heart for the Suite, because it felt like forces beyond our control were writing the music while were priveleged to sit in and listen.
And the cherry on top is that, more than any other piece, we’ve heard reports of this one being played ‘on repeat’ in cancer wards, hospices, moments of personal healing and so on, all over the world. As a musician, no privelege could be greater than that.