“A reminder of the Islamic culture’s shared forgotten values and contribution to the world,” that’s how Sami Yusuf is billing his concert at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on April 25, as part of the second Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Festival that runs until April 27.
“I don’t usually tour or perform that much anymore, but when I do it’s usually because the event is connected to something I’m proud of, and the OIC ticked all those boxes,” Yusuf told Gulf News tabloid! ahead of his show.
“Events like this are good in general in terms of having them here in this part of the world,” added the 38-year-old Brit of Azerbaijani descent who spends his time between the UK, Germany and the UAE. “They are an important reminder of our shared human values,” he said, with a nod to this festival also taking place during the Year of Tolerance and just before month of Ramadan.
“In the West, Islam in the media is viewed with so much negativity, but this initiative from Abu Dhabi is an amazing reminder of positivity and the contribution made by the Islamic culture through history that we are all inheritants of.
“I think that a lot of people have lost touch with that legacy which they are part of that stretches from Andalusia to China and everything in-between,” added Yusuf, who has sold over 34 million records worldwide and was billed as Islam’s biggest rock star by Time Magazine in 2006, collaborating with everyone in the musical scale, from Ian Brown to AR Rahman.
“We are indebted to the giants of the past. All great traditions have contributed and the Islamic tradition has contributed immensely in the field of arts, science, music, beauty and tolerance.
“A lot of people have forgotten these things, so of course we have to go back and delve into it and that is why Abu Dhabi are doing such an amazing job at addressing this, not just from a sentimental point of view but also in an intellectual way.”
So is this what we can expect from his concert?
“Of course,” he said. “We have traditional instruments with an Islamic legacy and classically-trained musicians flying in from all different parts of the world ready for a night filled with beauty and art.
“We will explore all different parts of the Muslim world from the Maghreb in North Africa to Turkey. It will be a unique experience of traditional music filled with exciting rhythm and culture.
“We want to be light hearted and accessible and not extremely puristic because we don’t want to bore people, but it is rooted in tradition and authenticity.
“We are basically connecting people and reminding them of their unbelievable legacy of genius and their incredible musicians and history.”
But there’s something for everyone too, he said, and this is what fits the theme of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance, which Yusuf is such an advocate of, and hopes comes across in his music.
“Inclusivity and tolerance is inherent in our tradition itself and its intellectual not sentimental. It’s not ‘lets all hold hands and sing Kumbaya,’ when in actual fact you go home and say ‘I don’t really like that guy’, it’s not like that, it’s much more intellectual, deep rooted and loving — that’s a fundamental characteristic of our tradition.
“Tolerance is such an important word today, respect and inclusivity is something other traditions can also teach us, because we have the idea of tolerance but a lot of times it feels like a negative word, like I don’t really like you, but I’ll put up with you, and that’s not what is really meant.”
Don’t miss it!
Sami Yusuf performs live on April 25 at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. Tickets start at Dh100 and are available online. Show starts at 8pm