Four youth in Guelph, Ontario have been recognized for an effort to make a positive change in the world through a musical video.
This past month, December 2011, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation gave their group’s video, Be the Change You Want to See, the award for best musical video and best overall submission to the international Faith Shorts video competition.
The “Dapper Rappers”, Nadim Merrikh, Shayan Majidy, Sahba Shahmohamadloo, and Blair Cameron, who deepened their friendship through a youth program, created a few rap videos for the web based on inspirational people from the history of the Baha’i Faith.
The encouraging feedback from their first videos gave them confidence to sport their signature hats, sunglasses, and ties while ‘busting rhymes’ at various sites in Guelph. The final result was their award-winning video submission that calls for personal action, not just words, for the positive changes needed in society.
“I first heard about the Tony Blair Faith Foundation video contest when Sahba told me about it,” said Merrikh, the group’s producer behind the winning video who also happens to be their youngest member at age 15. “I found out the video was shortlisted while in Germany. This was very exciting news, even that we were finalists was a big accomplishment for me.”
The Faith Shorts film competition aims to give youth the opportunity to express their faith in their own words through three-minute films.
The categories for 2011 were family, music, and action. Finalists were chosen from hundreds of submissions from around the world that were then reviewed by a panel of judges from various faith and celebrity backgrounds such as Hugh Jackman, Jet Li, Rabbi David Rosen, Amr Khaled, and Tony Blair.
While the Dapper Rappers were excited with their awards, they admit that all the finalists’ submissions were well done and, therefore, they really can’t say for certain how theirs became the judges’ top pick.
“It is hard to determine exactly why the video won,” said Shahmohamadloo. “The message of the video simply calls for each individual to think about how they can achieve pure and goodly deeds in their life, and how their personal life could induce transformation in their society. Such a statement truly resonates with anybody of faith or no faith.”
Given the social movements and calls for change throughout the world in 2011, the underlying message of Be the Change You Want to See appears to be somewhat of an anthem for today’s youth. While some news interviewers have asked whether the song identifies with specific, recent events, the Dapper Rappers are careful to point out that inspiration for the song came through a general recognition of youths’ potential.
“At the forefront of all these protests and movements were youth,” said Shahmohamadloo. “This inspired us to feel we have a voice and could creatively and maturely share a message with the world.”
And their own youthful power is evident in the fact that the entire video was written and shot in a single weekend. It’s not surprising, then, that Cameron names “time” as the greatest challenge for the video’s creation.
“We had put aside a weekend for the project where we were to…find a backing track, write the lyrics, record the song, and film the music video,” said Cameron. But the pressure of time didn’t take away from any fun they had in the process.
“It was amazing – we were running around the city of Guelph, looking for locations, hoping against hope it wouldn’t rain. Because we had just written the lyrics the previous day, none of us had them memorized, so we wrote each verse on the whiteboard, and held it behind the camera while filming. Then Nadim took all the footage and edited it all together. It was great!”
For Merrikh, the intensity provided the energy needed to turn their ideas into action.
“Our video started with a small idea and with one weekend of focused, hard work we came up with a winning video,” said Merrikh. “When you gather together and have a common purpose, being that you want to help change the world in some way, having that collectiveness and diversity of thoughts is truly inspiring and motivating to keep going.”
The group is especially looking forward to using the part of their award that includes having a professional crew to make and edit their next film. Still, the Dapper Rappers make it clear that their greatest prize was, and remains, the bond of friendship they built through the study of the Baha’i Writings, meaningful conversations and service to the community. Three of the four Dapper Rappers have volunteered with younger youth to help build their capacity to serve their community and one of their future projects includes a video featuring the programs’ benefits.
“My greatest aspiration for the future is to see every young person be able to participate in the youth program that has done so much for me and my friends to raise our capacity, and raise our awareness of who we really are and what we’re capable to do,” said Majidy.
“Change is not passive, and never will be, and you can’t truly have changed yourself unless you begin changing your environment.”