Sami Yusuf has sold more than 34 million records. In short he's a mega star. He's been talking to our culture correspondent Stephen Smith.
It was number 1 in Turkey for like two months. It was number 1 in Egypt for three months. You could consider it a hit. [It was] the first time a religious song, a devotional song, was being aired alongside belly dancing tracks, which was a big deal. Eventually what happened was I was branded as a Muslim popstar, rockstar.
I remember my first concert. I could hear 6,000 people screaming, and it felt very weird. I was very uncomfortable by that – I’m not big on that… the superficiality of this work. I’m a musician – my craft is music. I’m not a rockstar. For me, the sacred is at the heart of my music.
What was your experience of growing up in Ealing?
I was a bit of an anomaly really as a teenager. I’d go to school, straight into the dining room, play the piano and wear the cravat… like a weirdo!
The modern world in so many ways is so arrogant. It looks down at anything that’s been passed on to us. It looks down at the past. I don’t share that view. So in my music, you’ll find a lot of traditional elements, in the orchestration, the arrangements, the subjects I talk about. And I believe we live in an era that also, certain esoteric truths need to be reinforced, need to be talked about.”
Such as, we share the same truth. The name may be different – the god of Abraham, the god of Islam. Truth, god, has many different names.
Have you considered a concept album where you address issues such as ISIS head on?
I do address these things through my music. ISIS, I’m sorry but they’re punks. They are a bunch of kids, punks – not very educated, sexually frustrated, politically confused young people who really don’t know what … [are] mentally not well. Why are two billion people supposed, expected, to apologize?
Is it possible to account for the appeal of ISIS to young people in this country, and what if anything can be done about that?
The problem with a lot of Muslims in this country is that we are disconnected from our roots. We are. They are neither Indian, Pakistani, Persian or Turkish - for example, nor fully British. They are somewhere in-between.
Bin Laden is modern, extremism is modern – they don’t come from traditional Islam, these people don’t.
What you have here is a generation of young people who essentially believe that their culture is wrong, here’s only one pure Islam, and that culture is a nonsense. It’s something that you should be wary of, and it’s not true. When you say all of that is a nonsense, you are essentially saying 140,000 years of what your forefathers have learnt is wrong, it’s all been wrong, this is the only way. I mean that can only bring a nightmare. That can only bring disaster.