INTRODUCING NIGERIA'S NASHEED SENSATION - MUHAMMAD ABDULLAHI

The 1one4 team met Nigeria\'s nasheed sensation at the recently concluded Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) convention in Lagos and we were truly thrilled with his person and his music. It is indeed wonderful to know that Nigerians could not only sing nasheed, but sing it so well. At the moment, we all can\'t get enough of the first and most probably the signature song of the album \"Don\'t despair\" salami salami. From the interview, Muhammad struck us like someone with a lot of depth and definitely knows what he is on about. He is also someone very passionate about the deen and uses his music to spread the message. In this day and age when most youngsters are busy complaining about lack of jobs and there is so much despair, we are indeed proud of this very young man who has a day job, sings on the side and loves family. We interviewed Muhammad to know more about him, his journey and his music. Enjoy! Tell us about yourself My name is Muhammad Abdullah and I am a Muslim from Katsina State Nigeria though I live in Kaduna. I studied Business and Management and also did a part time program at Oxford in Islamic Philosophy. Currently, I work with my brother as his assistance in our company which has been dealing in Spare parts and heavy duty machineries for almost 2 decades. Parallel to that, I’m also pushing my music career which is going smoothly as far as I can tell Alhamdulillah. How and when did you get into music? I often think that I got into music by accident but I believe nothing happens without Allah decreeing it beforehand. My family never had anything to do with music though nasheed wasn’t very popular back then. As a young student in the Islamic school, I always loved the beautiful Qur’an recited in sweet melody. The Seerah classes were also filled with songs about the prophet and his life. In the year 2009, I was already in England studying, fate had it that I will meet a very nice Welsh brother named Jamie; we had many things in common. He loved to recite the Qur’an and he was keen on studying several Islamic texts. Jamie was also a musician so I honed my music skills with him. He subsequently introduced me to another brother Abdullah Rolle who is a very popular artist. I told him about my erratic visits to a studio in Oxford to record my carelessly written songs. He listened to two of them and surprisingly he loved them. Abdullah offered to produce my album if I wanted one; why not I thought. I started recording with him ending 2010 and I finished%20the album middle 2012. What inspires your songs? My songs are not from just one part of my life, they are snippets of what I usually reflect on when I’m alone with myself. If I were to say in a word what inspire my songs I’d definitely say “Spirituality”. Allah is my primary concern as I believe He is for all serious Muslims. Whatever I do, I have to be certain that it reflects my belief in Allah and his Messenger upon whom be peace. Considering these points, I would like to believe that my inspiration to sing is driven by my love for Allah and his Messenger (SAW). Is this your first album (Don’t Despair)? Yes, Don’t Despair is my first album but I’m already writing a second one. Do you have any formal music training? I took music classes in school as a young pupil but I don’t think the classes did anything significant to my music interests and capabilities. I had voice coaching sessions with Abdullah Rolle and Jamie during recording so you can say that I got on the job training. I also learnt a lot of music theory from a friend called Tommy Evans who was formerly a rap artist. With regards to song writing, I never wanted to follow%20the rules and I worked more on the spiritual sound as opposed to being musically correct. How would you describe your genre of music? My music genre is Acapella/nasheed considering the absence of musical instruments in my songs. I mash the western contemporary style of music with Arabic rhythms and Turkish Maqams. Didn’t I tell you I don’t follow rules? Any plans for nasheed shows in Nigeria? InshaAllah, I intend to tour the country though I know the difficulties surrounding the idea. I recently attended the MPAC convention which has been really interesting for me. It was my first performance in Nigeria and it won’t be the last God willing. I have been invited to be on the Peace Train concert featuring ZainBhikka and Native Deen next year so I’ll be looking forward to that. I will be returning back to Lagos to promote Don’t Despair and I will be looking at a few proposals to hold one or two concerts in Lagos. Are there plans for collaborations between Nigerian nasheed artists and if so who would you like to sing with locally? It is very difficult to find a suitable partner to collaborate with because artists make their music for diverse reasons, some are interested in money and fame whilst others want to enlighten and spiritually entertain. The latter is what I aspire to and hope to find in a potential collaborator. I met three nasheed artists in Lagos including a group of two brothers and I saw two other potential artists in the making. We have already created a network and we will make sure that good things come out of the union. The Crescents are an amazing group of two artists I met that can go a long way once they are recognised and appreciated for what they give. They are based in Lagos and we are already in the discussion phase with no strings attached and inshaAllah things will work out well. Is the nasheed business profitable? The nasheed industry in Nigeria is really new and still developing. The potential for a profitable market is just unimaginable. The only problem there is which is related to all the other media industries in the country is piracy. One can’t rip the benefits of his labour without somebody claiming a share without any legitimacy. Concerts I believe are one of the best ways to get your money back. When the people listen to your music live and see you at a stand signing copies, they are often tempted to buy as I experienced in Lagos. But nevertheless, the avenues to make a lot of money from nasheed are numerous though I advise all nasheed artists not to make profit their main objective. In your opinion, what is the future of nasheeds in Nigeria? Nasheed music in Nigeria will go a long way inshaAllah. A significant number of Muslims are becoming aware of their spirituality and they are also increasing their faith daily. Due to this, the need for the current illicit rap songs and other forms of unislamic entertainment dwindle. Nasheed is a form of calling; it serves as a method of inculcating the Love of Allah and the Messenger (SAW) in the hearts of listeners. If Nigerian Muslims understand the purpose and aims of nasheed they will surely incline towards it. I firmly believe that nasheed will be momentous in Nigeria inshaAllah. Any plans for listening get together or album launch? I am currently planning a launch in Abuja. I also intend to hold concerts whenever possible inshaAllah; my team are presently drawing up plans to hold a concert in Kaduna after the album launch though some colleagues think it is better to before than after. I am also looking forward to the Global Peace and Unity event in London (GPU) where I will officially launch my album for the UK Muslims. My team and I are working on a UK tour and the dates will be announced as soon as we%20get them inshaAllah. What else do you do apart from sing? Singing aside, I like to read a lot. I am profoundly interested in learning about my religion; I often lose myself in my library studying anything I can get my head around. I like spending my free time around family and relatives; I have very few friends. Who do you look up to musically and why? Abdullah Rolle has been my supreme music friend, he is part and parcel of my album; I wish all the listeners could know that. I actually credited him in the album leaflet. I polished my skills with his help and frequent coaching. I find myself frequently listening to his music in his absence, maybe I am a fan of his too. Ahmed Bukhatir is also a great nasheed artist that I look up to and I hope to perform with him at the GPU in London next year InshaAllah. A lot of people say I sound like him. Take us through a typical creative process. What does it take to create a song? We all can’t get enough of salami salami…… Making a song for me is always an irregular process. I sometimes have a tune in my head (only Allah knows where it comes from) and thus I write the words in line with the tune. Other times, I write the lyrics in twos or threes and return another time to carry on writing. I have attempted writing many times without success whilst on many occasions the lyrics flow out from the inside. Salami is a poem that’s been made into a song; many people told me that Salami puts them to sleep. The last song I sang on the album was Father. I felt the song on the bus from Oxford to London; I kept on singing the first two lines in my head until I was really familiar with them. When I reached home I got my lyrics pad and jotted the lines down. I then joined my little cousins on the trampoline for a few jumps; they were suddenly%20called to welcome their dad who returned from a journey. I was touched by their reaction. I sat down on the trampoline and pulled out my phone to record whatever came out of my heart. When I went to record it at the studio, it came out totally different from what I initially recorded on the phone. When this happens Abdullah Rolle tells me to go with flow; it’s all part of the creativity current he says. How do you capture the essence worship (dhikr) in the recording studio? The Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah) is the key to reviving the heart and every good Muslim aspires to that. I like to be in ablution whenever I record songs because they are ultimately containing a spiritual message to the listener. We always take breaks for Salat when we record and that brings back our spiritual balance. Discussions with Abdullah Rolle and the sound engineer are always uplifting for me because they’re never devoid of what Allah or His Messenger (SAW) said. What is your advice for up and coming nasheed artists in Nigeria? A very sound advice to all the nasheed artists in Nigeria is “just do it for Allah’s sake”. You can always strive to make some money but earn cash with your dignity and honour intact. Don’t trail the ways of theHip Hop artists by ever striving to get profit by all means. Maintain your modesty and practise what you preach plus never allow the fame syndrome to get to you; it can really be a disease in the heart. What is your anticipated outcome of this album? I do not know precisely what to expect presently. In the North, nasheed is relatively new especially coming from a Nigerian artist. A lot of Nigerians prefer things foreign and even their music. I was surprised when I saw a lot of people buying my CDs in Lagos only because it was wholly produced in London. Nevertheless, the road is long and I hope a lot is in store for me. We are starting an intense promotion campaign in Kaduna, Abuja and Lagos next month and we hope that we will attract a lot of interest inshaAllah. How can one get to buy the album? My albums will be readily available once our promotion campaign starts next month. Buraq Media in Lagos will be responsible for distribution in Lagos together with Baytul Jamaal. In Kaduna, Islamicity is our partner in distribution whilst we have many distributors around the country especially Islamic shops. We are going to put up a website come New Year thus people can buy the album and singles online. What is your daily mantra? I have two main ones that I often reflect on; the first is a verse on the Qur’an and I have written it down in my album leaflet for everyone to read. “Indeed after every hardship there’s ease” The second is a portion of Rumi’s poem that I memorized a year ago, it goes like this: “You suppose you are the trouble But you are the cure You suppose that you are the lock on the door But you are the key that opens it It\'s too bad that you want to be someone else You don\'t see your own face, your own beauty Yet, no%20face is more beautiful than yours.”

Leave a Reply