Thursday, October 23, 2008

Concerning Sami

His voice mesmerised me.

His humility delighted me.

His smile warmed me.

Tonight I dont mind sounding a little gay because I got a chance to spend a few hours with one of the most talented people in the world. Thats a bit ambitious isnt it. To call Sami Yusuf one of the most talented people on Earth - I mean - if you had to compile a list of talented people today - it'l be Phelps, Messi, the guy who made Bioshock (Levine), Randy Orton (yeah - he's up there), and I would put Sami with them. There has been a lot of flak around this particular show - just yesterday my mum was smiling and telling me about the rumour that there will be an earthquake in Durban tonight because of the concert. The Yvonne Ridley e-mail has been doing the rounds as well (ive commented on this debate two years ago and I will comment again on it ABR) So lets do a quick recap of the night.

I remember first listening to Sami's music in 2003. My friend at radio Al Ansaar downloaded a few of his tracks and played them for me at the Souk. At first I was like - even though this guy is stealing Nusrats stuff, the xylophone kicks ass. I loved it. The up beat tracks. the mellow dhikr inspired tracks. I just couldnt get enough of it. I remember January 2006 when I was in Dubai, I came across his second CD 'My Ummah' and I bought both the musical and duff versions. I was so excited that I found the CD that I immediately went back to my hotel so I could load it on my laptop. Mum wasnt too thrilled as that was supposed to be Cloak time for her. As you can imagine - tonight was a big deal for me :)

So people will say that this is haraam, and concerts are imitating the West and we are all going to turn into swines and monkeys (btw Mufti Muhajir Makki refutes this idea in his tafseer of the Quran by saying that no one in this Ummah will be transfigured) but I felt more spiritual tonight than I have felt since coming out of Itikaf. It really was magical. As soon as Sami walked off the stage I hugged my dad. It was that powerful.

The show started late - which sucked! But the timing was a little silly. I mean - half past seven? Thats Esha time (I'm a hypocrite as I dont usually read Esha on time anyway but most people do) The MC/opening act/Comedian sucked - Muthu Murugans less famous brother (kinda like that episode of South Park where they had Jon Stamoses's brother) I looked at this guy on stage and I thought to myself - I could so do a better job. But yet - the audience loved his stuff. Even though he made so many mistakes and his stuff wasnt culturally relevant, and some jokes did border on crude, they lapped it up. The guy kept calling Amichand Rajbansi Amitabh (silent BH) - No mate, thats Bachchan. But he got laughs so Kudos to him. Next up was the Oasis CEO who came in with a Blue Bulls flag. It was really funny as you could sense that the rugby reference was lost on the majority of the crowd. After that they played a long ass Oasis video - an Epic Video! I felt like I needed an intermission just to get through the whole thing. But this is the price we pay for Sami so it was worth it. Good video - at the end of it I was like 'Shit - please invest my money mr Oasis Man'.

Nielfa did a wonderful blog on the concert so I wont repeat that stuff suffice to say - The guy played at least four instruments during his performance and he played each one like a Jedi Master. You could put a cheese grater and some pebbles in his hands and he'l make it sound like Spur Buffalo wings for your ears. When he played the santoor (whatever the hell that is - looks like a xylophone had sex with one of those old school desks with the lids on them.) it sounded so beautiful that I have no yearning to get a violin anymore. I want a Santoor.

Half way through his performance he invited on stage a local Choir (I cant quite remember their name but they are from an AIDS orphanage near Pinetown) This was amazing! To see Sami perform with them. Most artists condescend towards their audiences with cheap pops by saying Hello in the native tongue - anyone remember Hrithik Roshan messing up with Dumelang at the IIFA's a few years ago? Sami sang bits of the Zulu song with them and it was really beautiful. By this time I imagine you might be quite sick of reading my praises for him but i really dont care.

There was a point when a couple of youngsters went to the front and started clapping. The Oasis guys were quick to tell them to cool down - and i'm sure some people in the audience must have been a little uncomfortable with it. I was a little. However - its all quite simple really - Its about choice - no one held a gun to my head and forced me to go to the front and scream. So I sat on my seat and enjoyed the show. I would rather have them in the front singing along to Allahu than at the Himesh Rishamiyah (spelling?) concert singing along to his version of As Salaam U Alaikum.

Sami's Band was amazing. My family is in the Sound and Decor business so Ive been to at least a hundred shows in my life. Never before have I seen a band that played so beautifully together.Not a single mis cue or a missed beat whatsoever. Absolutely superb. The sound volume was also really good (not too soft like Chris Rock so we couldnt hear anything, and neither too loud so it felt like a Rock concert)

After the show I got a chance to meet him, and while I was there I just sat back and observed him. You could see that the guy was exhausted yet he spent all his time meeting people, posing for pictures, getting their names right, and even looking each person in the eye when they shook hands with him. Here is one of the leading artists in the Nasheed world, and yet so warm and generous, that you cant help but be in awe. I find this same warmth in Dawud Warnsby Ali, so its mind boggling how our local chaps will release one Naath CD and develop these huge egos.

Theres too many pics of me on this blog, so for a change I'm putting one up of my dad next to Sami.



Az said...

Geez...sounds sooo cool. I really wish I could go but have exams coming up :(

Enjoy it though :)

Nielfa Hanifa said...

Love your post and jealous that you're going to see him again and actually met him!!! Both my husband and I would've loved to have met him.

While reading your post I realised that I forgot to praise his band, which is funny, because throughout the performance, I was telling my husband to check out the drummer, Tariq. His beats were excellent... I couldn't stop blurting out how awesome he is, or kwaai as us Capetonians would say.

But Sami's entire band deserves massive praise... gosh, the flute! *let me shut up now*

Thanks for the link-love

PS. I want a Santoor too!

KiLLa said...

Tickets for Jhb - giveaway

Deadline today

Sofi said...


so not fair!!!

so. onto the Y.R letter: did you see any hijabis in a lustful trance ready to throw themselves at him...?

i'm still tuned into 8 of his tracks, even post ramadhan (yeh i usually switch to islamic related songs/nasheeds etc during the Holy Month..sue me)

Nooj said...

i disagree with it being called a "concert"
but maybe after saturday i'll have a more valid opinion

Nuraan said...

i enjoyed reading this post about ur experience at the concert.. Everyone making me really jealous now that i didnt go!

M Junaid said...

Azra - it was wonderful

Nielfa - The guy on the flute was unbelevable!

Killa- very generous of you

sofi - if you had invested in Oasis you would have hey. yeah - there were the occasional 'Sami I love you' screams - but do you blame him or them? He never encouraged it - he just kept saying shukran and jazakallah

Nooj - I can understand your mild apprehension to the term concert but according to the American Heritage Dictionary a concert is "A performance given by one or more singers or instrumentalists or both". and thats exactly what it was. It could have been a rock concert had their been an electric guitar - there was only a bass guitar and a drum set.

Had this conversation with Kay earlier - I dont understand why we try so hard to islamisice these words - thats delusional. Itsa concert, and theres nothing wrong with calling it a concert. but if it makes you smile - you can call it a mass dhikr or something :D

NK - thanks. It was lovely, but not everyones cup of tea - my friend stormed off during the first track - No one told her there would be music (its also wierd as there was an hour and a half delay between starting and this guy coming on stage - did she think the instruments were stage props and part of the decor or something?

Heck - to each his own.

Anonymous said...

Salaams MJ
Correction: The Oasis guys DID not tell the youth who came to the front to do what I've heard Sami actually DOES NOT LIKE, to cool the best of my knowledge from my very-close-to-the-stage seat, they 'planned' for this to happen during this particular song, by striking a deal with the 100 youth 'planted' in the audience to make a noise to come to the front for that particular song.
The Oasis guys (if you didn't see yourself) were at that point jiving themselves.
This made me feel seriously comfortable, because if you are running an event, you have to set an example as to how Muslims should conduct themselves there.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I made a mistake, please delete the word not after "DID" in my post.
I meant to say they DID appear to tell the youth who came to the front.

Also, nooj, it was a concert. best way to describe it in fact.

I loved it. But it was a concert.

Anonymous said...

And yes, there were hijabis in a trance like state ready to throw themselves at him.

Sad but true.

Not a sad reflection on Sami, but a sad reflection on the Hijabis.

Anonymous said...

OH MAN...this is so annoying.
Disregard my 2nd post. the 1st one is correct.
Ha ha...too many late nights at Sami Yusuf's concert.
To re-iterate correctly this time I hope the Oasis guys encouraged the youth to do what they did during 'Allahu' i.e. stand in the front and act as if they were at a non Islamic concert, for the lack of a better word.

M Junaid said...

anon -
I'm thoroughly confused:)
Can you post that up again so i know exactly what you are saying. Also- with regards to the youth who were 'planted', my friend nazjam was in charge of getting a hundred youth for wednesdays concert (poor turn out for tuesdays concert) and the number who took up the offer were significantly less. As i have said in my post- it did make me feel a little uncomfortable but it was still much more restrained than what i see at other concerts. Also- while some oasis guys were getting into it- if you'v noticed from the left hand side- there were a few of them telling the crowd to cool down. I would love for you to repost so i know exactly what you're saying so we i can answer properly.
By the way- some of the arguments made by its critics are silly. But i'l get into that in another comment

Nuraan said...

i just read on VOCFM's website that there is a new Nasheed group that was launched. this time, 3 females.. as far as i know, a woman's voice is part of her Owrah? Im expecting alot of controversy around this group very soon. heres the link: New female group enters Nasheed market

KiLLa said...

Apparently radio Islam lambasted this guy.

I did not hear this but clarification would be good.

Anonymous said...

Hey MJ...
I know about Nazjam - man, I was going to be part of that crew too, but wound up getting my own seats anyway...I know you said you were uncomfortable.
I wasn't attacking you bro :)
I was giving two cent's worth.
I don't think the criticism about boys and girls and men and women jumping up and down and going wild is silly...I think it's valid.
It's the kind of occurence that spoils it for everyone else...because it heightens the controversy surrounding the event...we shouldn't judge ourselves by the standards of the West...if their concerts are wild, doesn't mean we should aim for less wild. We should aim for decorum, especially where the lyrics are so Allah and Muhammmad focussed. When we jump and down like that, it doesn't bring to my mind spiritual connection, rather I think of a total disconnection, and something more vain.
Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I saw your father tonight at 45th. He looked busy and happy.

Crimson Shimmer said...

im intrigued by how fragile our community is. i think this concert has brought light to so many issues of the self and i wish for each to find resolve in their own. i strongly maintain that if it takes you away from Allah, take yourself from it.
If it takes you toward Allah, open out your wings and fly.

- a hardcore Metallica, Iron maiden and Infected mushroom fan ;)

Fatima Asmal said...

Very profound crimson :)

Anonymous said...

Nice pic of dad.... i reckon that Sami is not the problem here, if there are criticisms, its because of the responses to him....if people can just be restrained when enjoying him...especially the girls screaming ...i think his music is a positive way of expressing a form of creativity...the use of instruments is an ongoing debate...and we should agree to disagree...

Anonymous said...

Radioislam had two talk shows one before and one after the Durban show. The one before the show was tell people not to go the concert.

The one after the concert was feedback of people that went but left after the first track.

Anonymous said...

wow, sounds like i missed one heck of a party...

Anonymous said...

slm Mj

your thoughts are ok.
but can you contain yourself with the swearing?

not a good reflection on the ummah

jazakAllah :)

p.s: >>hijabis in a trance wanting to throw themselves at him<<
>>not a good reflection on them<<

come on brothers (and by default sisters), can we stop judging and tripping on hijabis here? once again, not good for the ummah- remember- i hide ur faults u hide mine? or gentle reminders to good?

anyway, totally by the wayside

was salam

Nooj said...

Final thoughts- despite being an isnpiring, talented artist i've lost my hope for Sami as a role model for Muslim youth and the Ummah as a whole. By asking people to stand and clap it is inevitable they will start dancing. One of the guys who started calling everyone to the front justified it saying that Sifis danced during their dhikrs. Was there intermingling in that instacne. Would Allah SWT of the Prophet SAW be pleased with such actions?

Anonymous said...

Hey MJ
I'd love to hear your views on the Joburg concert. There were more than a few people - young and old - jiving along to Sami's tunes. I was comfortable sitting in my seat clapping, but I'm still a bit confused as to where to draw the line. Your thoughts?

Also, I wanted to add that for me it wasn't a spiritual experience. I appreciated it for the music which I could sing along too, and for his sheer awesomeness at handling such a variety of instruments, but it stopped there. I looked for, but didn't feel anything more. This is despite feeling it when I've listened to his music previously.

Anyway, that santoor was something else. His effortless fusion of an ancient instrument with contemporary beats was hair raising.

M Junaid said...

hey chaps - will respond later today - doing some research on war games tonight

M Junaid said...

NK - I saw the article. I know the producer. Met him last year when I spen time with Zain Bhikha. Concerning a womans voice - firstly - they are young girls - so its similar to say rabia Sayed and her stuff when she was younger.

Secondly - if you watch Qtv you will see tons of women singing Naaths etc. So from here it can be seen that there is difference of opinion. (QTV has a variety of Muftis on its religious board - including some senior Ulema)

I can slo think of south african women who released CD's as well - lets see what happens.

I also aknoledge the other view which says that a womens voice is part of her Owrah (this was part of the reason why Radio Islam in Johannesburg refused to allow women on the air until ICASA threatened them.

Killa - I want to see the transcript as well hey

anon - "It's the kind of occurence that spoils it for everyone else...because it heightens the controversy surrounding the event..." - well said

worms - :)

Crimson - once again - I love your rationale and mindset :)

Charouchick - I agree with you wholeheartedly

me - thanks for that - i'l look into it

archtype - sarcasm boet?

al - youre right - the three instances of profanity in this post is unnecesary. I didnt swear once in my follow up post :)

Razz - hope my follow up blog answers your query :)