A Message from Chantelle, Choir Beginnings

When Mo told me I would be running the Berakah choir with him last year my first emotion was fear – that most common of emotions when facing the unknown – having never run a choir before. And I do believe the wonderful singers we had in that first term were a little apprehensive themselves, none of them really knowing what to expect. On that very first session I was like a rabbit in the headlights with lots of baby rabbits staring at me like I was the headlight. It was quite disconcerting but the reason we all found ourselves in that uncomfortable situation was because we knew we had a common goal in sight – a goal that kept us there and prevented us from running – that it is possible to be unified regardless of race, gender or belief system. That cohesion can work when idiosyncratic detail is swept to the sidelines and a group’s focus is towards peace, love and acceptance. And with music as our medium, that beautiful universal language we all understand, work it did. As the weekly singing sessions gathered momentum, all our fears gradually slipped away to be replaced with joyous harmony, much... Continue reading →

It’s a Funny Old World

On my way back to where I’d parked my car, after another enjoyable night at Zebrano in Greek St with the cracking band I turned from Dean St on Oxford Street, which at 23.00 hours was still buzzy with cars, buses and people. As I walked along I noticed a lady walking slowly in front of me. She was, let’s say ‘large’, and walked with a cane. She carried a plastic bag and small rucksack on her back and as she walked slowly I noticed that her feet were bare. I drew up to her and heard that she was wheezing, and struggling to walk and I thought her bare feet must be hurting. I wondered if she had any shoes. As I passed her I turned and looked at her. Many years ago I made a decision that if I saw someone who looked like they were in trouble I would offer help. I wouldn’t think twice. To my eternal shame and regret I haven’t always kept to that decision, and when I have it’s got me into some hot water but with Mark Dyer’s post from yesterday on my mind I thought if she hasn’t got any shoes... Continue reading →

A Message from Mo, June 2014

This months newsletter comes at a time when much in the world is changing – when is it NOT changing, you may ask? – but the challenges in working together towards a better world for all of us seem to get bigger every day. Although it would be easier to fold and buckle in the face of those challenges what they actually do it spur us on. This is the essential lesson in the face of ANY challenge – keep going, do your bit and slowly but surely every bit that everyone does adds to the whole and creates something far far bigger than the sum of it’s parts. Good luck to all of you, and all your er….bits. Mo Nazam

The Light in the Tunnel

THE FOLLOWING PIECE WAS WRITTEN FOR MY FACEBOOK WALL JUST AFTER THE END OF OPERATION CAST LEAD, THE IDF INCURSION INTO THE GAZA STRIP THAT WAS INTENDED TO STOP THE DAILY FIRING OF MISSILES INTO SOUTHERN ISRAEL.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_War     Hi,   I hope the first few days of 2009 find you all well.I’m sure we are all concerned about recent events. The cycle of revenge, retribution and brutality goes on. Fueled by anger, loss, oppression and the dark machinations of global political agendas, the conflict appears to have no end. It’s no wonder that people feel helpless and fearful for the future.That’s why I want to share this story with you.   On Christmas Eve last year, I was invited to an event at the house of a rabbi who leads a large North London synagogue. It was essentially a hannukah celebration, but what made it unique was the presence of a group from Israel and Palestine. They were members of The Parents Circle-Families Forum,a support group for people who’ve lost loved ones as a result of the on going conflict. Mother, father, brother, sisters,cousins…from both sides of the divide who have decided that the vicious circle of... Continue reading →

I am not a number – I am a free man! Now what?

First things first – I’m ashamed. Truly. It’s been nearly a year since my last blog post and my good friend Will Donbavand has convinced me to write less but more often. So heads up people – like it or not you’ll be hearing from me more often as of now! But first, here’s what I’ve been thinking about today.   Years ago, when I was about 12 years old, I somehow came into possession of a book published by what we all think of as ‘The Hare Krishnas”. They’re often seen singing and dancing along Oxford St, In London’s Glittering West End, and their HQ is just off Soho Square. led by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami they give out books, corner people for a chat and in the USA they gained a reputation for hanging out in the airports and trying to convince people that figuring out what their woes might actually mean in the larger context or their lives might be a better long term idea than attempting to run away from them for two weeks of the year. Which, of course doesn’t work anyhoo.   Any road up, the point is – I got this book. By... Continue reading →

Soul Food

SOUL FOOD I can’t recall a longer winter than the one we’ve just had (for post apocalypse readers in the future I’m referring to the winter of 2012-13). It was bitter and lasted longer than it strictly needed to. I think we can all agree on that. Another thing that is as dependable as the damp British weather is the tendency, for those who are that way inclined, to bemoan the state of humanity/the nation/young people/modern music/just about anything. Constantly. It’s one thing griping about stuff every now and then but some people must be very shocked when they learn that they wont get paid for the time they spend pointing out  all that’s bad in the world due to the fact that  continually banging on about the awful state of the world and everything in it is not, in itself, a profession. ​ Now, don’t get me wrong – I find a good rant as funny as the next guy. And that’s fine, If it’s meant to be funny. Funny is good. Satire is good. Pointing out the absurdities and ironies of life is cathartic. There’s also a lot to be said about pointing out inequalities,unfairness and the galvanising... Continue reading →

Study: Music and Culture in the Community

In 2007 we were asked to take part in a public consultation carried out by the Dept. Of Communities and Living (as it was then known – not sure what it’s called now, maybe The Ministry Of Oh Shut Up and Quit Whining About the Superb Job The Government Is Doing, Considering That No One Actually Voted Them In?) about the importance of the arts in helping diverse communities to come together. I wrote this (rather long,admittedly) report to show how the arts, and music in particular, is a vital component in the life of a nation and as a reflection of its culture it is vital that we continue to support the arts. ​ ​ ​ MUSIC AND CULTURE IN THE COMMUNITY ​ In this document we outline the reasons why the arts (and in our case specifically, music) are an important facilitator of what the consultation document calls “bridging”, “bonding” and “linking”, and how music can be used to further understanding, and ultimately co-operation, by people of different cultural and faith communities. Fundamentally, it is our experience that the arts can facilitate this understanding in ways that an academic, scholarly or theologically based approaches cannot. The arts and music... Continue reading →

In the beginning

Hello and welcome to our blog. We’ve been meaning to do something like this for quite a while now as we often get asked what we’re up to, why we do what we do and, in fact, the journey that we’ve all taken with Berakah over the last few years has been so rich and full of incredible experiences that cause a lot of pause for thought, that I thought it would be a shame not to share them with you. On this site we (or more specifically I – Mohammed Nazam,guitarist with Berakah – although I’m really hoping it wont be just me blathering on and the other band members will eventually contribute some stuff too) will be sharing thoughts with you on a whole range of subjects related to the work that Berakah does, and the principles behind that work. It’ll all become clear as we go along! ​ First off, and for those who may not know what The Berakah Project is all about, here’s a piece that I wrote for an ethical investment company based in Salisbury, England. They deal in ethical investments and they approached me late last year and asked me to write about... Continue reading →