Harris J: Pop Music Meets Islam The 18-year-old British singer says his faith is a misunderstood one. He's hoping his music will help change that.
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Harris J: Pop Music Meets Islam

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Harris J: Pop Music Meets Islam

Harris J: Pop Music Meets Islam

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally, today, if you saw our next guest on the street in New York or anywhere else, you might mistake him for Justin Bieber or a member of One Direction, what with his hair and his style. He goes by Harris J. His representatives wouldn't tell us his full name. He's an 18-year-old British singer who decided to step away from a dream of mainstream pop music success to create songs that express his Islamic faith. He says he's also using music to overcome what he sees as misrepresentations of that faith.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SALAM ALAIKUM")

HARRIS J: (Singing) As-salamu alaikum, alaikum, yeah. As-salamu alaikum, alaikum, yeah.

MARTIN: Harris J's album is titled "Salam," which is Arabic for peace. It was released in September. This song, "Salam Alaikum," has reached more than 3 million views from around the world on YouTube. We talked to Harris J recently about his music and his career.

HARRIS J: I've been singing from the age of 5. I've always enjoyed singing in front of large audiences. When I got to around the age of 13, I started working with some mainstream people in the U.K. because I wanted to do something a little more serious.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SALAM ALAIKUM")

HARRIS J: (Singing) Spread peace on the earth, cherish the love that is around us. Spread peace on the earth, treasure the love. Let it surround us.

I just wanted to do music that wasn't necessarily speaking about drugs and stuff like that but speaking about things that are morally sound and things that people can get benefit from in their day-to-day lives. So I've always wanted to kind of, like, make a change within music that people, mostly teenagers, listen to nowadays. I try to portray the meanings of my religion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RASOOL' ALLAH")

HARRIS J: (Singing) Oh, you came into this life, brought up as an orphan child, through a time of deep despair. Oh, Muhammad.

The Prophet Muhammad is the most important figure in our religion. We believe he was the most important to God, the most loved by God and the most loved by the people of our religion. So when I sing it, I sing it with a lot of passion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RASOOL' ALLAH")

HARRIS J: (Singing) Rasool'Allah, Habib'Allah, you're light is always showing me the way. Rasool'Allah...

I try to portray the meanings of my religion as something I follow day to day in my life. I pray five times a day. Everyone knows Islam can be portrayed as a religion that it's not. It's a religion purely and entirely about peace. Whenever I'm in in trouble, whenever I have something to - I'm worried about, I turn to my religion. And it's just - it's a source of comfort for me. It's a very important factor in my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I PROMISE")

HARRIS J: (Singing) Every time that I need you by my side, every time I lose my way in life, you're my circle of life, compass and guide. Baby, I need...

There's a song on my album called "I promise," and it's got to be the one that's closest to my heart and the one I most enjoy singing, to be honest. It's about my parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I PROMISE")

HARRIS J: (Singing) Hold you close, like you taught me. Know that I'll be there for you. For you I promise any time you call me, it don't matter where I am. I'll always be there, like you've been there. If you need me closer...

My parents are very supportive of me, and they always have been. And it's just a song about how I am looking forward to giving back to them when they need me in their old age.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I PROMISE")

HARRIS J: (Singing) I promise anytime you call me, it don't matter where I am. I'll always care for you.

Success for me has to be to unite the two worlds of music and come up with something that is pure, that people outside of my religion and people inside of my religion will feel comfortable listening to and happy to listen to.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARADISE")

HARRIS J FT. JAE DEEN: (Singing) In this world I dedicate my life to just dream about it.

MARTIN: That was Harris J. His debut album is called "Salam."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARADISE")

HARRIS J FT. JAE DEEN: (Singing) I'll never be afraid to dream big about it. Come on, let's dream big about it, about it. Dream big about it...

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