Interview by Maria Manzoor for Style & Art
Can you tell us something about the album you’re recording right now?
Zain: I just finished my 20th anniversary special commemorative DVD & Cd. This has been a labour of love as I wanted to provide inspiration to others through my story and songs. It’s a very exciting project with all my music videos, a live show as well as an insightful documentary about my life. I would love to send you a copy.
What is the peak you want to reach in your music career?
Zain: I think everything that has happened over these last 20 years since my very first cassette released as a young 19 year old in 1994, has been far beyond my expectations. All I was hoping to achieve was to share with people my thoughts and feelings and today I’m very proud that my songs have inspired so many around the world. I would like to continue as long as I can and am still able to write songs and inspire others. But also I wish to grow spiritually myself, in a bid to get closer to God.
The children of those who emigrate from East to West are sometimes ashamed of their identities. You drew an image nourished by Eastern culture and benefited from Western civilization. So, how did you solve that dilemma?
Zain: I think God meant for us to be in the places that we are born and yes it may not be ideal but we have to try our best to make the most of what we have and where we are to change the world around us, even in small ways. If we contribute positively to society around us as Muslims should, we can definitely define who we are in a positive way and be all we can be. Its all about following the example given to us by our Prophet (Peace be upon Him)
What was the real cause of that awakening?
Zain: In 1994, I lost my best friend in a senseless shooting. We were both 19 years old and being so young realty affects you. You begin to questions life and death and the purpose of it all. It was that same year that I won a singing competition on a local radio station here in South Africa, but because I was going through so much struggle, I decided that if I was sing songs, they should be about Allah, our creator and the purpose of life in general. So I made my very first cassette. And It has been an amazing journey since then.
Can you tell us more about your background?
Zain: Well, I grew up in South Africa as did my parents and grandparents. We are of Indian descent. I grew up during apartheid so we always were aware of struggle against inequality and fight for social justice. I loved singing ever since a young age and I not have a family of 4 boys.
Music & Islam – what’s the big fuss?
Zain: I think it is a controversy due to the effects (especially negative) that music can have on our society. Also the concept of live music is often associated with drinking and promiscuity, so I suppose most scholars very rightly regard music as impermissible. However I do think there’s a place for songs as a means of inspiration, education especially for our young people but a lot depends on the message and the use of these songs and in which environment. For now, I have remained very conservative using just voice and drums in my songs to try to make it accessible to everyone.
Who are your favorite Nasheed artists?
Zain: My favorites would be Dawud Wharnsby, Khalid Belrhouzi and Native Deen. They are my close friends and I know that they really mean what they write and are good human beings.
Is music – or is it not – allowed in Islam?
Zain: As mentioned in my previous points, this is a difference of opinions on the matter but I have kept my songs very simple with just voice and drums.
Were you familiar with Islamic Nasheeds?
Zain: When I started, there were no songs about Islam in English, mostly in Arabic or Urdu. I am proud to be able to say that I have contributed to the English Islamic nasheed genre over the past 20 years, Alhamdullillah.
What do you think is the potential reach of Islamic music across the world?
I think the response and support from people has been amazing and I see it growing further with globalization as well as technology.
Do you feel you are bridging the gap between Islam and the West?
Zain: Well, I think using the medium of song definitely helps bring the message closer and makes it appealing in a non-invasive way. There is so much hate and intolerance in the world and so little of the true essence of Islam, that making these simple songs can definitely help in bringing people closer.
What has the response to your music been so far?
Zain: It has been amazing, far beyond my expectations.
Where did the idea to combine songs with Islamic lyrics come from?
Well, most of my sogns are self written from my own experiences and thoughts and ideas. So, I hope to inspire people with the songs that I make.
Where has your passion for nasheed come from?
Zain: I loved singing ever since I was very young so this was just a natural evolution to try to express myself as a person growing up as a Muslim in South Africa
Do you try to convey any particular message through your Nasheeds to the non-Muslims?
Zain: Yes, I believe that the message of the songs should be the most important so I try to use my experiences and inspirations to write songs that will inspire others, all based on my own experiences.
Five things you can’t live without?
Zain: This is tough because I do believe that we as human beings have the capacity to survive anything as long as God gives us the strength and ability, however the five things I wouldn’t WANT to live without would be my family, my ability to write songs, my ability to sing, Faith and HOPE.
Give us 5 facts about you people may not know?
Zain: I love watching and playing football, I have a fear of flying, I hate any crawling insects, I love sushi and I drive a Golf.
Where do you see yourself after 3 or 4 years?
Zain: I want to continue using my creativity if not making albums but working in schools, making movies, theatre productions, I want to continue spending time with my family and hopefully get closer to Allah.
Who is you favors singer in Pakistan and in western?
Zain: I don’t know many singers in Pakistan. I do like Junaid Jamshed since he and I toured a lot and he has a great voice and talent. In the west, I like John Mayer and Ed Sheeren.
How was your experience giving a Pakistani website interview?
Zain: Thanks so much, this is amazing. I would love to visit Pakistan soon since I have heard so much about the place and of course my good friend Dawud Wharnsby lived there for many years.
Any message for your fans?
Zain: Thank you for all your support and for listening to my songs, I hope to meet you someday and please pray for me and for people all over the world.
Kindly add your Official Pages on Face book, Twitter, YouTube and email addresses so your fans will not follow fake pages and stay in touch to your activities?
Zain: Our official website is www.zainbhikha.com
our facebook page is www.facebook.com/zainbhikhaofficial
our twitter is www.twitter.com/zainbhikha
Few words for our website and for the journalist (Miss. Maria) who have taken your interview?
Zain: Thank you so so much for this wonderful opportunity and I hope to meet you all soon Insha Allah.