Eric Harper: Breaking The Dawn

ericharperLife is sometimes like a domino game. You put one domino next to the other and continue shaping a unique combination of a somewhat random and seemingly limited set of choices. You put one foot in front of the other and continue moving.  Before you know it, you have a unique path behind you, and an equally unique one ahead of you.

A year or so ago, when I first came across the music of JB Eckl and Eric Dozier, I was intrigued by the music label behind their remarkable CD “Badasht“. So, I followed the link to Amity Records and from there to the flamenco rock band Mimosa. Now, anyone who can mix rock and flamenco, would be intriguing to me. Put the Baha’i Faith in the mix and you have Eric Harper. Here goes Eric’s story — enjoy:

Well, it must have been about 11 years ago when I was living out my last few months in Portugal. One of my friends asked me to compose some songs for the Baha’i community of Portugal. At first I was very hesitant as I felt religion and music didn’t really mix that well. All I had ever seen in current society were cheesy renditions, weak adaptations and musically “challenged” songs written in praise of God. Well, that never made me feel very good about God and certainly didn’t make me want to praise him in any way. So often I felt in religious people that if the spiritual intent, fervor and sincerity was there then it didn’t matter how the end product came out. Well, I just didn’t like that approach to my reality in music. It’s like Abdu’l-Baha says:

“Prayers are good. But next time read a recipe.”

You can want to write good music all you want. And you can love God with all your heart. But if you don’t get down and dirty and practice and study for hours upon hours upon hours then how can your musical product possibly match your sincere intent or possibly come anywhere close to praising the Divine?

In the past you had magnificent compositions from some of the most astounding, capable, inspired and most importantly, educated composers ever to praise God. Composers like Bach, Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Haydn, and so on. So how could I ever come close to matching that level of technical proficiency and yet raising the bar of current “God-praising” music. I say “God-praising” merely because using the word “religious” still falls sour on my tongue. And so often is love of God far removed from anything religious. But I digress;

So, I put off my friend’s request to write any Baha’i-inspired music. But the thought was always gnawing at the back of my mind. From time to time I would hear people complain about the current level and quality of Baha’i-inspired music saying that it was time for things to improve. Directly or indirectly they would always say that it was my job to aid in the process of improvement, so to speak. Well, finally about 8 years later, I thought I would give it a try and not think too much about it. So I sat down with my Baha’i prayer book in Portuguese and opened to the prayer:

“Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion…” – Bahá’u’lláh

I didn’t think of the notes. I didn’t think of what would the Baha’is of Portugal want to hear and I didn’t think of what I would want to have this song sound like. I simply followed the natural rhythm of the prayer and began to play notes that accompanied, what i felt, was the natural melody and rhythm of the prayer.

Well, for the next 3 years after beginning my process of composing, arranging and recording for the Portuguese album I tried to remain true to every prayer and whatever form or style came out. They weren’t so much a product of my own thoughts but more how i felt in my heart was the natural seed buried inside each individual prayer.

In 1997 I was asked to compose songs for the Baha’i community of Portugal. In 2008, 9 songs were completed for the album entitled “Romper a madrugada” (Breaking the dawn).

ericharpercdWhen I bought Eric’s Portuguese CD “Romper a madrugada” (Breaking the dawn) I was amazed by the diversity of the music and the masterful skill of his art. The songs range from very mellow ballads through passionate flamenco to joyful bossa nova. Indeed he offers a totally different take on Baha’i music. As someone who does not know a single word of Portuguese, I can honestly tell you, all I can react to is the pure music, and pure music it is indeed — great music that will touch your heart, and often your feet and hands too, making them tap and clap along.

Since I wanted to know what the songs are about, Eric generously shared the lyrics. Here they go:

“Amanhecer”

Levantei-me esta manhã
Levantei-me esta manhã
Por Tua graça, ó meu Deus,
E parti da minha casa
Com toda a confiança em Ti
E entregando me a Ti.

Ó meu Deus, meu Deus!

Translation:

“I have risen this morning by Thy grace, O my God, and left my home trusting wholly in Thee, and commiting myself to Thy care.” – Bahá’u’lláh

“Estrela Brilhante”

Ilumina a lâmpada do meu coração,
Ilumina a lâmpada do meu coração,
E faze de mim uma estrela brilhante.
Ilumina a lâmpada do meu coração,
Ilumina a lâmpada do meu coração,
E faze de mim uma estrela brilhante.

Ó Deus, guia-me, proteje-me.
Ó Deus, guia-me, proteje-me.

Translation:

“O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star.”

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“Cura”

Teu nome é minha cura,
Ó meu Deus,
E a lembrança de Ti,
Meu remédio.

…ó meu Deus,
E a lembrança de Ti,
Meu remédio.

Aproximar-me de Ti
É minha esperança,
E meu amor por Ti,
Meu companheiro.

Translation:

“Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion.” – Bahá’u’lláh

“Nas Tuas mãos”

Ó Deus, refresca e alegra meu espírito.
Ó Deus, refresca e alegra meu espírito.
Purifica meu coração.
Ilumina meus poderes.
Em Tuas mãos confio todos
Os meus interesses.

Translation:

“O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“Fechar de olhos”

Ó tu que estás te volvendo
Volvendo a Deus, a Deus!
Fecha, fecha teus olhos

Ó tu que estás te volvendo
Volvendo a Deus, a Deus!
Fecha, fecha teus olhos

A tudo o mais,
E abre-os para o reino
Do Todo-Glorioso.

Translation:

“O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious.” – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“Ó Filho do Homem!”

Ó Filho do Homem!
Se Me amas, não te prendas a ti mesmo;
E se buscas Meu prazer, não consideres o teu próprio;
Para que tu morras em Mim
E Eu possa viver eternamente em ti.

Translation:

“O SON OF MAN! If thou lovest Me, turn away from thyself; and if thou seekest My pleasure, regard not thine own; that thou mayest die in Me and I may eternally live in thee.” – Bahá’u’lláh

“Alláh’u’Abhá”

Ó Senhor! Abre Tu, a porta, provê os meios,
Ó Senhor! Abre Tu, a porta, provê os meios,
Prepara e torna seguro o caminho,
Para que sejamos guiados…

Translation:

I’m unable to find a direct translation but it’s very close to this popular prayer:

“O Lord our God! Open Thou the door, provide the means, keep safe the path and guide the way.” – Attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“Nos céus e na terra”

Dize;
Deus é suficiente
Deus é suficiente
Deus é suficiente
Deus é suficiente

Para todas as coisas
Acima de todas as coisas
Para todas as coisas
Acima de todas as coisas

E nada nos céus ou na terra ou em
E nada nos céus ou na terra ou em qualquer coisa
A não ser Deus, Teu Senhor.

Translation:

“Say; God sufficeth all things above all things, and nothing in the heavens or in the earth but God sufficeth.” – The Báb

“Buscar a noite”

Como posso eu querer dormir
Ó Deus, ó Deus, meu Deus,
Enquanto os olhos dos que te anseiam
Estão insones

Por causa de sua separação
De Ti, de Ti, de Ti;
Por causa de sua separação
De Ti, de Ti, de Ti;

Como buscar repouso?
Como buscar repouso?

Translation:

“How can I choose to sleep , O God, my God, when eyes of them that long for Thee are wakeful because of their separation from Thee…?” – Bahá’u’lláh

In case you want to get a hold of Eric Harper and his music, send him a message at ericharpermusic AT gmail.com or visit his CDBaby store.

And spread the news — the dawn has broken and so has the mold on what God-praising music is! Thanks, Eric, for sharing your remarkable talent!

2 Responses to “Eric Harper: Breaking The Dawn

  • Dawn Oh
    8 years ago

    Mitko! I am cooking dinner listening to Eric Harper’s Breaking the Dawn and was puzzling over some of the lyrics…and google led me to you 🙂 I think sometimes all roads of mine must occasionally be destined to cross back to you. A great pleasure! Thank you for this!!

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