Muslim singer Maher Zain performs in South Africa
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
Lebanese-born singer Maher Zain is currently the Muslim world’s most popular alternative to pop music. He produces music inspired by Islam and this year toured 13 countries, while five million of his CDs have been sold globally.
Zain is also the Muslim artist with the most views on Youtube. His music videos have had at least 115-million views while unofficial fan-made videos have had 200-million views.
He is scheduled to perform at Growthpoint Kings Park Stadium in Durban on Saturday December 14 and Athlone Stadium in Cape Town on Sunday, December 15.
Q: How did you get into making Islamic music?
A: I am originally from Lebanon, having lived there for eight years, before moving to Sweden. I come from a musical family – my father was a local singer and there are many beautiful voices from my mother’s side too.
I started singing only a few years ago and was a producer before being a performer. After soul-searching a few years ago while I was in New York, it occurred to me that something was missing.
When I returned home to Sweden, I rekindled my love for Islam. It was then that I decided to create Islamic-inspired music.
Q: Who do you have in mind when recording your music?
A: My music is for everyone, for Muslims and non-Muslims, and people young and old. My target audience is anyone interested in positive messages. It’s about being a good human being, and sharing the message of Islam. It has mixes of Western and Eastern influences and shares the story of my life, where I’ve come from, and where I hope to be one day.
Q: Is there a market for this music?
A: My first album Thank You Allah sold 1.5-million copies and Forgive Me sold 3.5-million copies this year. Thank You Allah is the highest selling album on Amazon in the world music section and number eight in the R&B section. We picked up 40 platinum awards for that album.
My second album Forgive Me picked up 25 platinum awards in Indonesia alone. We are blessed that there is indeed a market for this kind of music. The support has been overwhelming.
Q: What are your thoughts on Islamic music, which some say is haraam (the Islamic term for forbidden)?
A: There have been a lot of discussions concerning this among sheikhs (religious scholars in Islam). I feel more comfortable with the opinion that argues that the message is more important.
Everyone has a story to tell, we all just deliver it differently and music is a powerful medium. People the world over can relate to music, and this is just my way of sharing my journey respectfully.
For me, it’s a message of love, respect and life, celebrating my faith, and glorifying the name of the Almighty.
Q: What is the career path though for a Muslim musician?
A: It’s a challenging career path for anybody, but my aspirations have always been to spread the message of Islam as far and wide as possible. Recognition for my work, in the form of awards, is always a bonus, but to know that the messages reach those who are open to it makes it meaningful to me.
Q: How did the South African tour come about?
A: I love South Africa. I’ve been there twice before on visits, and it’s always been on my list of places to perform. Local organisers approached us based on the local interest.
Q: Do you see yourself as a pioneer of Islamic inspired music?
A: Not at all. There are so many artists, many of whom I look up to, who have walked this road long before me. I try and show that you can do what you love, without jeopardising who you are, and what you believe in.
Tickets range from R150 to R1 000 and can be bought at Computicket.