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Several well-known artists and performers gathered in London for two-day long motivational event on November 23-24, 2013. The 2013 Global Peace and Unity (GPU) took place at the London’s award winning ExCel Exhibition centre, assembling more than 10 000 in audience, global leaders and the global civil society from across 132 countries and five continents.The great line of performers at the GPU event consisted of Islamic Nasheed (song) artists from across the globe. These performers vowed the crowd with their spell-binding performances
The journey of Islamic singer/songwriter Zain Bhikha is a story in itself. Zain Bhikha isn’t your prototypical pop singer—he performs spiritually-charged music that spans a distinctive array of musical style. Born in 1974 in Pretoria, South Africa, Zain Bhikha is breaking new grounds with his sensational style of relaxed Islamic singing and his charismatic personality on stage. He has traveled the world, performed with musical legends and has met a lot of wonderful people on the way. He has been in the business for 19 years and with his gentle soulful voice has become a legend in Muslim communities across the world.
His first album ‘A way of Life’, which was released in 1994, made him an instant hit with the Muslim community in South Africa. He became famous internationally in 1999, when Yusuf Islam former Cat Stevens invited him to London to record an album. He has released eight albums so far and has a huge global fan following. He is a husband and a father, as well as a humanitarian worker. His songs relate his life and spiritual journeys in acoustic style. The result is a sonically beautiful selection of songs that will stay with you for a long time and will keep you mesmerized.
Toonari post had the opportunity to interview Zain Bhikha, discuss his journey and reminisce about his amazing music career.
Toonari Post (TP): Thank you so much for speaking to us, please introduce yourself to our readers
Zain Bikha (ZB): Aslam ili Kum, I am Zain Bikha from South Africa. I am a singer and a song writer and I have been singing and writing songs that are spiritually motivated in their essence. By faith, I am a Muslim and my songs are about Islam, the oneness of God and on the Prophet of Islam.
TP: Could you please tell us more about your music, what you have sung so far and what your target genre is?
ZB: I started singing many many years ago and at that time there were not many songs about Islam in English. Therefore, I used the medium of Islam to play very simple songs for children to praise Allah to praise Prophet Muhammad (saw). I’ve tried to try use my songs as an inspiration but also as an educational tool to promote learning and to gain knowledge on Islam. Over the years my songs have evolved to my social issues and my songs include ‘I look I see’, ‘Our world’, ‘A way of life’, ‘Fortunate is He’ and ‘Mountains of Makkah’.
I try to use my voice and medium of Islam to highlight the true essence of Islam. I believe words, lyrics in songs, can influence people’s hearts and minds and my songs are really simple. They use simple words, simple instruments to get the message across to the masses. I am very blessed to have this opportunity to sing such amazing songs. Through my songs, I’ve tried to convey the message that we are all unique, created by God and we should celebrate who we are. Also through my songs I try to dispel stereotypes and encourage people to build bridges and to live in peace, love and harmony.
TP: At the Global Peace and Unity event, what is your message to people in attendance and who will be watching you on their TV screens across the world?
ZB: My message is very simple, to sing praises to our Prophet of Islam and to unite and live in peace and harmony. I will be singing a new song today and will be getting a message of peace and tolerance across to the masses.
TP: Who or what inspire you the most in your songs and where does your inspiration for song writing comes from?
ZB: My inspiration comes from my faith, just an attempt to be a better person, to live a simple life, to do good. I get my inspiration from my children, I get my inspiration from visiting Makkah and Medinah and there are very simple things around me that inspire me to write my songs.
TP: Which singer are you inspired by?
ZB: Well, my inspiration is Yusuf Islam, former Cat Stevens from the 1960s. I had done few songs by myself and all of a sudden Yusuf Islam invited me to London in 1999 to record a song with him, and by working with him, I learnt so much. He is my teacher and my mentor.
TP: Please share with us some of your achievements and some of the struggles you’ve faced in your career?
ZB: Achievements, Thanks to God, I’ve had a chance t travel around the world. I’ve gone to most continenets and many many countries and amazing places and have met amazing people. People say I’m one of the most influential Muslims of the world, I don’t know what they mean by that, but I know I’m so blessed to have children around the world to listen to my songs. Struggles are manifold, mainly an attempt to try to stay true to yourself as a person as the artist and don’t get too cried away, or get caught up in fame and your ego.
TP: You’re a very accomplished singer, your message to young people?
ZB: My message to young people is to get knowledge. Knowledge is the key to life. Without knowledge you can’t love Allah or his Prophets. Knowledge is the key to success.
TP: When it comes to music, there is a difference of opinion in Muslim communities regarding the permissibility of music, some accept music and some frown upon music. What is your opinion?
ZB: Having practiced music for so many years, I believe there are difference of opinions. I have only chosen to use voice and drums in my songs, simply because I want to make my songs accessible to anybody. I respect people who don’t listen to music, I respect people who chose to listen to music. But those who don’t listen to music, I respect them enough to provide them with something that their kids would listen to and would like. I’ve tried to make it accessible to as many people as I could have.
TP: You’ve performed in so many countries across the world; tell us about most memorable crowd, your most memorable performance?
ZB: Global Peace and Unity in the past where people sing along to my songs is amazing. One of my most memorable performances was performing in the Ivory Coast, West Africa in a war-torn country; where people know my songs.
TP: Speaking of Global Peace and Unity, how do you define peace and unity?
ZB: Wow, I think this is a great question. Peace is the essence of the Islam and justice is the essence of the Islam. You cannot have peace without justice, so Islam teaches us about justice, to be just, to strike a balance in our lives and to remember the life to come. Unity is the means of that. If we get together to fight injustice, we can attain peace, but unity is what we need.
TP: How do you think humanity can attain peace and unity?
ZB: If we all realize that we are made into nations and tribes as Allah has said and come together, get to know one another, accept our differences and try to work together.
TP: Do you listen to Sufi Music?
ZB: I love the concept of the spirituality from within. I love the concept of the Sufis, of the frugality, looking at your inner senses, at your inner self, your ego, and trying to look at how much we eat, how much we sleep and how much we consume. We are living in a world of consumerism and we need to control it, so I love the Sufi way of life and I try to embrace it.
TP: Have you ever used poetry of Rumi, Attar, Hafiz, Saadi, Jami in your songs?
ZB: I’ve read their work, but I’ve never used their poetry in my work, because I feel unworthy of using their poetry in my work.
Thank you so much for speaking to us.
To connect with Zain Bhikha online, follow him on social media to get all the updates and tour dates. Follow him on Twitter @zainbhikha and on Facebook, join his page ZainBhikhaOfficial
Image credit: Nadia Shabir