The Revival's Humayra Sadiq had the opportunity to talk exclusively to Sami Yusuf about his latest single: ‘You Came to Me.’ Here he tells us about his albums, his charity work and his plans for the future.
Br Sami, Jazakallah for agreeing to take the time out to do the interview with the Revival Magazine.
My pleasure, no problem at all!
You have had a lot of success in the past few years. What inspired you to go down the line of music? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Well, yes I mean everyone – at some point - kind of searches deep inside their souls to find out they have one, or perhaps few, multiple talents that they think they can use and utilise to contribute in their field. For me that ‘one’ talent was music.
I always felt like I could do something in music that would hopefully add value. I chose music and Alhumdulilah (Praise be to God) it’s been quite fruitful and blessed.
How do you deal with the success and the fame you have achieved all over the UK and abroad? Do people recognise you when you walk down the street?
(Laughs) I do get recognised occasionally here and there, but you know, I don’t really think much of it because half of my family are musicians and I became acquainted with the ins and outs of ‘show business’ and Music at a relatively young age.
I see Fame as an allusion and don’t take it too seriously. For me, work is work and I’ve always seen music and art as a platform to do bigger things like charity work; being the voice of the weak, oppressed and destitute. All this has also got me into trouble before but it’s what genuinely gives me the pleasure.
It’s through those types of works that I feel I’m ‘adding value’ to this world…
May I take this opportunity to say that I think your albums are absolutely fantastic...
Thank you so much, Shukrun.
Your lyrics consist of many morals which are both inspiring and very uplifting. You also incorporate other languages into your lyrics such as Arabic, Hindi, and Turkish etc. How would you describe your music and is there a certain message you want to portray to your listeners?
I’ve been struggling with putting a name to my music because I don’t really think of it as a Nasheed, I honestly didn’t know what Nasheeds were until 2003 when I released ‘Al-Muallim.’ I have coined a term to my music though! I call it “Spiritique” and it’s basically music that’s from the spirit, from the heart! So if anyone makes Music from the heart and spirit, it becomes “Spiritque”
I’m so blessed to make music from my heart and having an audience that can relate to it and be effected by it - a great honour indeed!
Your latest single just came out called ‘You came to me” which has been highly anticipated in the West. How would you describe your latest single?
Well, I am kind of overwhelmed. It’s only been 10 days but it has been a total success mA! The song was available for pre-download on the 31st August in 4 different languages with huge numbers downloading it! The video will be aired on all channels soon iA… It was made available on Youtube and so far has attracted over 140,000 Views in just a few days! It’s a great blessing, it really is a great blessing so Alhumdulilah.
I just saw your video and I think it’s absolutely fantastic
Thank you so much
As a British Muslim Artist, do you find any particular challenges or hurdles that are difficult to overcome?
Well, it’s difficult to please everyone. I have a motto in life and that is:
- Number One – Stick to what you’re good at
- Number Two – Don’t try to save the world as the world is bigger than you and I! Stick to what you know best!
- Number Three – Don’t try to please everyone because you simply won’t be able to!
You can’t please everyone and this is one of the big problems we face in our community. People are intimidated but won’t speak out because they’re too scared what the community is going to say. There are also those people who are too afraid to speak because they think they will be seen as sell-outs… They’re too busy thinking when they should just follow their hearts.
Following your heart is so important in my opinion. Although we have issues here in the UK I can happily say that overall I feel we have a really beautiful, healthy and vibrant British Muslim community here and it’s exciting. I mean I’m really proud, I’m proud to be a British Muslim because if I hadn’t been brought up here, I would most definitely be a very different person.
I can’t even imagine what kind of person I would be would be if I was brought up in Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Tehran or any other place. Probably, very very different God knows.
Would you target your Nasheeds to a particular audience?
(Sighs) Well, I mean one has to have some kind of idea of who you’re making music for, but I would say that my music is generally for everyone. The lyrics are quite devotional/spiritual and a lot of the time and that’s really the defining element (Lyrics, Words) that makes music take a particular ‘name’ to itself – which is mis-conception amongst the masses.
Music and Lyrics MUST match otherwise it can be destructive. There are certain “Islamic record companies” that are actually taking R & B music, I mean 100% pure ‘Bump n Grind’ R & B and replacing the lyrics and adding Allah SWT and the Prophet’s name in them!
I believe this is VERY wrong but unfortunately this is the sad state we’re in. The ‘anasheed’ “Islamic Music” has been heavily commercialised.
I have been struggling since 2003, to keep my music pure and from the heart. My music is for everyone and Subhanallah, I get emails from as far as Argentina all the way to Scandinavia and they’re just so moving mA. They love the music, they love the spirit of the music and they love my work. Alhamdulillah.
What response would you give to those who criticise what you do with regards to music being forbidden in Islam?
If the response comes from two different religious opinions then just follow the one that you honestly know and feel deep down in your heart is right but I mean. It’s very much like anything in life, like “words” for example. You can use “words” in a beautiful way, used in the way of God and you can use “Words” that can get you into a lot of trouble as well.
Another example is the obvious one, the knife! You can peel an apple but also end up doing something hurtful or dangerous with it. So at the end of the day, it’s a means, it’s a way, it’s an art form which allows to get your ‘emotions’ and feelings across. However, it’s got to be done with care and with respect.
In recent years you’ve done a lot of charity work and helped make a difference in many people’s lives. How do you feel about this and can you tell us more about your charity work and what you hope to achieve.
Sure, I mean that’s what gives me the buzz. I really love doing charity work. I’m currently involved with Silatech which is a non-profit organisation headed by the First Lady of Qatar. It’s an amazing initiative aimed at creating employment in the entire MENA area.
I believe, one of the biggest problems we face now in the Muslim world is lack of employment because if people can work, honestly a lot of the problems will disappear. It is definitely projects like this that really inspire me to continue doing what I’m doing.
I’m hoping to set up my own charity soon Inshallah, which is to do with the victims of horrendous situations such as domestic violence, and women who are oppressed and children who are abused. These things are not talked about too much within the community because they’re considered Taboo. A lot of the times, victims of abuse would approach their local imam only to be told to have ‘sabr’ (or “have patience”)! No one should have to go though a single moment of abuse!
Would you encourage young Muslims to pursue a career in music?
If they feel like that’s what they want to do, sure. If they really feel like they can ‘add value’ then definitely go for it. However, there’s no point doing something you’re not good at or doing really feel much passion for.
You should follow the passion that is making you wake up every morning to get involved and if you feel like what’s driving you is to get into the studio and start producing music at very good levels then I think they should do that…
Do you have any advice for the Muslim youth growing up in the West and are finding it difficult to practice Islam in this society?
I think everyone faces their own challenges, everyone’s got their own issues and for the youth, it’s very difficult to just give one advice that’s applicable to all. Everyone’s got their own issues in their own country and every part of the UK has its own feel and its own challenges.
I think the key challenge we face is remaining balance and positive - against all the negative PR and obstacles we face on a daily basis!
What are your current projects and what can we expect from you in the future?
Oh, I mean it’s so many, so many things I am doing now. I’m working on my album, I’m working on this new video that I did, and I’m doing a couple of charity projects, Silatech is one of them, and there are a few others as well… I have a concert in Turkey and I don’t usually like performing in Ramadan as I prefer to keep my self busy in worship.
Generally speaking at this moment of time, I’m just trying to keep myself in ‘ibadah and worship and just to keep it simple and quiet to be honest, Alhumdulilah.
Well, that’s all we have for now. Ramadan Mubarak to you and Jazakallah once again for taking the time out to do an interview with the Revival Magazine.
No problem. May God bless you and the listeners and Ramadan Kareem to all of you and thank you very much for having me.
Shukrun and Assalamu Alaykum
The British Muslim artist is taking the world by storm and there is a lot that can be expected from Sami Yusuf in the upcoming years. Since 2003, his albums, ‘Al-Mu’allim’ and ‘My Ummah’ have sold over five million copies worldwide with a latest album on the way.
The rising star believes he can make a difference in the Muslim world with his religious lyrics and his persona to promote love, mercy and peace in the world whilst also encouraging the youth to be proud of their identity.
Sami Yusuf's Official Website: http://www.samiyusufofficial.com