British singer Sami Yusuf wants you to pray for Syria. The multifaceted performer, known for his soul-stirring tunes, is using his huge following in the Middle East to help raise awareness about the plight of refugees by launching a single. Called Silent Words, the song, launched last week, is a call for prayer, he says, and to let Syrian people know they are not alone.
Yusuf, who recently launched his fourth album, Salaam, is also a celebrity partner for the United Nations World Food Programme. He spoke briefly to tabloid! about why he wrote the song, what he hopes it will achieve and his upcoming performance in Muscat.
Why did you decide to write Silent Words?
I have been very sad by the tragedies occurring in Syria ever since the problems first started. However, the catalyst for writing [it] came about during my trip to the Zaatari Camp in Jordan in my capacity as Celebrity Partner for United Nations World Food Programme. While at the camp, I naively and innocently asked: ‘How can I/we help you!?’ when a middle aged lady responded with ‘Sami, just sing for us. We will survive this… Just sing a song so the whole world would know of our suffering.’
This left a profound impression on me for different reasons. Firstly, I was so touched by the dignity and honour of the Syrian people at the refugee camp; secondly, they are a resilient and strong people known for ‘never giving up’. This was the reason for writing Silent Words.
I called my co-writer Will Knox and told him about my experience at the camp, about the silent words felt when seeing their pain and suffering. There are really no words that do justice to what Syria has gone through ever since the violence broke out. It’s truly unimaginable.
I also tried very hard to keep it as apolitical as possible. My intention was not to make a type of ‘statement’ or air opinions on the conflict. The only intention was to ask people to pray for Syria and for her children.
What do you hope the song and video will achieve?
The main goals really are: 1) To let the Syrian people know that we echo their pain and that they are not alone. 2) To raise awareness of the sheer plight and magnitude of the issue with over 1.8million refugees scattered around the region mostly in camps. 3) Last but not least, to raise as much money as possible through donations. Everyone is welcome to donate to the charity of their choice. We have listed 6 to 7 of the most recognised and established, not to mention our own LiveFeedSyria campaign with the WFP.
Tell us a little about your upcoming performance in Muscat?
We are very excited to be performing for the very first time in Oman. We are looking forward to meeting all our Omani friends.
How has the album Salaam been received so far?
Absolutely overwhelming success and response. I never imagined Salaam would do so well. We just got back from Russia (my first performance there) where we were received by an unbelievable reception of 9 to 10 thousand people and they all new the songs from the album! In fact they preferred hearing songs from the Salaam album as opposed to the earlier ‘hits’ and this is unusual. It was a surreal experience.
When will we see you perform in the UAE again?
I really hope soon. My label and management team (ETM International) are completing the final stages of negotiations with several potential partners here. Let’s hope for the best.
For more on Sami Yusuf and his campaign for Syria, go to www.samiyusufofficial.com/syria