About a year ago while surfing the web for Baha’i related content, I came across an awesome Baha’i musician on gofundme.com.
Her name was MJ Cyr, and she was trying to raise money to record and launch her first full-length album which was based on the Baha’i Writings. What really got my attention at first was the video she posted up on the site (and which I’ve also included at the bottom of this post). It was a simple video of her standing in front of a mic with a guitar strapped over her shoulder, and as the song developed, she just kept adding layer-upon-layer of music and vocals until the song really came to life!
The song was called Innocent In Heart and, and not only was it brilliant, but it was based on one of my favourite quotes from Abdu’l-Baha:
As for you, O ye lovers of God, make firm your steps in His Cause, with such resolve that ye shall not be shaken though the direst of calamities assail the world. By nothing, under no conditions, be ye perturbed. Be ye anchored fast as the high mountains, be stars that dawn over the horizon of life, be bright lamps in the gatherings of unity, be souls humble and lowly in the presence of the friends, be innocent in heart. Be ye symbols of guidance and lights of godliness, severed from the world, clinging to the handhold that is sure and strong, spreading abroad the spirit of life, riding the Ark of salvation. Be ye daysprings of generosity, dawning-points of the mysteries of existence, sites where inspiration alighteth, rising-places of splendours, souls that are sustained by the Holy Spirit, enamoured of the Lord, detached from all save Him, holy above the characteristics of humankind, clothed in the attributes of the angels of heaven, that ye may win for yourselves the highest bestowal of all, in this new time, this wondrous age.
The wonderful album which MJ Cyr set out to record is called Canopy, and it’s just been launched, so I decided to get in touch with her to find out a little bit more about this Canadian singer/songwriter and her album.
Baha’i Blog: Hi MJ, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your musical background?
I grew up in New Brunswick, in a small French Canadian town called Edmundston. Both my parents play music so I was always surrounded by it. When I was a kid, On the weekends I remember waking up to my dad playing The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, America… it was great! My mom somehow managed teach me how to harmonize at a really young age. I remember being in the car singing “you are my sunshine” over and over again in harmony. My mom’s pipes can mop the floor with mine. Eventually my family moved to Stratford, Ontario, and when I graduated high school and moved to the big City of Toronto to go to musical theatre school. I ended up pursuing a music career here.
Baha’i Blog: You had mentioned that quite often concepts connected to spirituality or faith seem so out-of-reach, or taboo, and that you hoped to create something that can show a softer, more tangible side. Can you elaborate on this?
I’ve had a million and one conversations with friends about religion and spirituality. And sadly, often, religion has been a negative force in many people’s lives. Being brought up as a Baha’i, I have such a different connection to faith, spirituality and God. The Baha’i Faith, even with all it’s complexities, is such a source of clarity. I wanted my album to be an example of how religion can be a positive force in the world. I wanted to create something that could make an impact where words couldn’t. With having created Canopy, I felt like I’ve been able to talk about religion and spiritual concepts in a “non-scary” way. I mean, everyone loves music! So it was easy to get people to listen and think about quotes on spiritual topics – and then start conversations about them – when they came in the form of songs. Music softens people’s hearts. and I think that when the heart is softened, things can be seen and understood more clearly.
Baha’i Blog: Why do you think it’s important to put the Baha’i Writings to music?
Music is the ladder for the soul! It’s a way of expressing every aspect of our lives. I think it’s great when we explore that… see how far it can get us!
Baha’i Blog: How has the album been received so far?
I think people like it! I’ve been getting some great feedback so far! It’s always a little weird trying to get perspective on my own accomplishments, though.
Baha’i Blog: Will you be working on any similar follow-up albums or is this it?
I’d like to alternate between “devotional” records and “non-devotional” records. The plan is for my next record to be my own lyrics and music… I probably should get’er done soon…
Baha’i Blog: What message do you have to other musicians out there (Baha’i or not)?
It’s really between two:
1. DO IT! We need more more more music!
2. RRRUUUUUUNNNNNNNN!!!!!! YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR!
…it’s a toss up.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview MJ, and we wish you success with your music and future endeavours!
Here’s the video I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Enjoy!