Why is it so important to make inspiring and uplifting music today? Hip-hop artist José María Fierro elaborates on the role that music plays in creating change agents.
In part two of our interview with José we learn more about what inspires his work with youth and empowerment through creative expression, why he feels it’s so important to make uplifting music that inspires young people to become agents of change, the concept behind his debut album Rooftops & Sidewalks, the motivation behind his recent tours and plans for the future.
Q: You’ve worked a lot with youth and young people over the years, nurturing their creative powers of expression. What has been the main driving force behind this?
A: It sounds like such a cliché, but youth and young people really are the future of this world. So we need to do as much as we can to help them grow into agents of change. I also think that they have so much potential in terms of creativity, outlook, energy, and so on. It’s great to tap into all of that and help them channel everything they want to express into creating their own content—and very often, I draw a lot of inspiration from their ideas and creations, so it’s a truly symbiotic relationship. Abdu’l-Baha actually talks about the power of music in affecting the hearts of children and helping them discover their power of expression:
The art of music is divine and effective. It is the food of the soul and spirit. Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted. It has wonderful sway and effect in the hearts of children, for their hearts are pure and melodies have great influence on them. The latent talents with which the hearts of these children are endowed will find expression through the medium of music. Therefore, you must exert yourselves to make them proficient; teach them to sing with excellence and effect. It is incumbent upon each child to know something of music, for without knowledge of this art, the melodies of instrument and voice cannot be rightly enjoyed. Likewise it is necessary that the schools teach it in order that the souls and hearts of the pupils may become vivified and exhilarated and their lives be brightened with enjoyment. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 52.
Q: What role do you believe music plays in social action and spiritual transformation?
A: I was just talking about this with a group of friends. I think that at its most basic level, music is a form of expression. So the purpose of music in society is to allow people to express themselves and feel emotions through playing or listening to music—to move or be moved. Music can affect our moods, our modes of thinking, our ways of acting, and so much more. So I believe that positive and inspiring music with good energy and uplifting messages is really crucial to creating the consciousness that leads to social action or spiritual transformation:
We, verily have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high … – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 39.
Q: You recently conducted a crowdfunding campaign for your upcoming album. Could you share a bit about the album? Is there an overarching theme? What sort of feeling do you want to evoke in the listener? Have there been any highlights or surprises in the process?
A: Yes! It was such a great experience seeing the community come together to support the creation of my music in a way that I never thought possible. The album is a double album called Rooftops & Sidewalks. The first CD, “Rooftops,” consists predominantly of the Baha’i writings set to music. It was made to have a real communal vibe, so it gives off a very live and acoustic feel with real instruments, and is made in a way that all ages can sing along and enjoy. The second CD, “Sidewalks,” focuses more on the hip-hop and RnB style of music, and tries to take spiritual concepts and put them into songs that provoke thought and sound more like what’s currently playing on the radio. I love both sides equally and I feel like they both shape my identity as a whole.
The name “Rooftops & Sidewalks” comes from two quotes from the Baha’i writings. The first talks about the call to prayer that comes from the minarets of mosques. I really liked the visual of someone singing from up high, so I called the devotional album “Rooftops:”
The album moves from the rooftops to the sidewalks to symbolize that it’s great to praise and proclaim, but the spiritual work has to be won on street corners, school hallways and sidewalks, in order to see our communities progress and advance.
I feel like a lot of times there’s a certain stigma or prejudice around religion and God, but the overarching idea of this album is basically being unashamed of the fact that we are people that have a relationship with the Creator, and are trying to create change in the world. I hope that the people who listen to this album will experience that feeling, and hopefully be inspired to share more about the spiritual side of their lives. Apart from reaching and passing my crowdfunding goal, a nice surprise has been how many artists and friends came together to help create this project. Most of the songs on this project have guest verses and features from artists that I’ve looked up to as well as friends that I’ve known since I was young. I think that really encapsulates what this album is about: a community of people coming together to discuss, praise, create, and share with others.
Q: Could you share a bit about your recent Rooftops & Sidewalks tour? What inspired this tour, who did you tour with and where did you go?
A: Of course! I toured with fellow Phoenix rappers, Colby Jeffers and I Be ILL, both of whom are on my CD. We decided that we wanted to try and share our music with as many people as possible to encourage others to create and release similar content. We did something similar last year when we toured a new music video for the song Treasure which is on Colby’s album Wizdome. So we wanted to try it again this year, but with a more focused show and purpose. We are touring in stages: regional, state, local, and neighborhood, in order to try and reach the people we can most easily work with to create content and build communities. We just completed the regional circuit which included Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Clemente, Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Boise. So far it’s been such a great experience. We are also very eager and willing to work with and perform for any communities that are interested in having us, so we hope that we’ll be going to many more cities in the near future.
Q: How can our readers find out more about what you’re working on and how to support you?
A: The simplest way to connect with me for updates, purchases, or inquiries is through my website (www.josemariafierro.com). For more frequent updates or a closer glimpse into the creation and performance aspects of my music, social media would also be a great way to connect. I’m on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.
If anyone is interested in listening to or purchasing the album, I’d suggest going to this link:
Thanks so much!