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Music News: Hip Hop Group Confronts Rise of Islamophobia in Music Video

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  • Zafar Khan
    Hip Hop Group Confronts Rise of Islamophobia in Music Video Native Deen Releases New Song as Part of My Faith My Voice Campaign
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2010
      Hip Hop Group Confronts Rise of Islamophobia in Music Video
      Native Deen Releases New Song as Part of "My Faith My Voice" Campaign


      WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Native Deen, one of the most well-known and respected Muslim hip-hop groups in the international community, today released a music video in response to the rising tide of Islamophobia facing America, especially in the wake of the New York Islamic cultural center controversy.
      The music video, released as part of the "My Faith My Voice" campaign from which it takes its title, highlights many of the concerns Muslims have regarding the vilification of Islam and the heavy-handed focus given to extremist voices.
      "As American Muslims, we feel like our voices have been drowned out by the extremists on both sides," said Abdul Malik Ahmad, one of three young African-American Muslim men who comprise Native Deen. "We have always called to the middle path, but moderate voices like ours don't make headline news. As musicians, we know the power of music and hope to reach out to our fellow Americans through this song."
      In the opening verse, Ahmad sings: "They're saying we are savages, uncivilized/ Me, my community we work hard, / Every opportunity to break walls, / The fight, the lunacy that they cause, …"
      Later in the song, Ahmad adds: "Go use the same steam, for youth to stay clean,/ Our earth to stay green, we want the same thing,/ 'Stead of burning books, extinguish disease,/ Help spark the flame to help children in need."
      WATCH THE VIDEO at www.myfaithmyvoice.com
      Native Deen, a fusion hip-hop group, has inspired millions of people of all ages and ethnicities from around the world. It has toured more than 60 cities in America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, promoting Islam and positive interfaith relations. Over 4 million people have viewed its videos on YouTube, and its album, "Not Afraid to Stand Alone" is ranked #2 in the DC area on independent music site cdbaby.com. In October 2010, Native Deen will release its newest album, "The Remedy." For more information, visit www.nativedeen.com.
      My Faith My Voice (MFMV) is a grassroots effort by American Muslims to present the diverse voices and faces of its community. MFMV offers Muslims a platform to reach out and speak directly to America through video messages at www.myfaithmyvoice.com.
      Media Contact: Israa Dawood at 202-439-1441 or myfaithmyvoice@...
      SOURCE My Faith My Voice

      Musician Khyam Allami on how the 'ud changed his life
      Khyam Allami grew up in London but found himself longing to connect with his Iraqi roots. The 'ud – a Middle Eastern lute – was the way he chose, and he has dedicated his life to it
      Khyam Allami
      guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 August 2010 22.30 BST


      Whenever I meet someone new, the conversation tends to go like this. "Where are you from?" "My parents are from Baghdad, I was born in Damascus and raised in London." "What do you do?" "I'm trying to be a musician." "What do you play?" "The 'ud and drums." "What's an 'ud?" "It's a Middle Eastern lute, a plucked string instrument." Here my new friend will continue with the inevitable. "What made you start playing the 'ud then?" "It's complicated," I begin, cautiously.

      My parents aren't musical but I grew up surrounded by music, Arabic music particularly. Aged around seven, I played a little accordion and then started learning the violin. But when we moved to London, when I was nine, my musical world changed. Within a few years I was playing guitar, bass guitar and drums, and was in love with the likes of Soundgarden, Melvins, Killing Joke and Tool. As a teenager I had pretty much rejected my Iraqi background and stopped speaking Arabic. I was neck-deep in western rock, but "eastern"-sounding melodies always got to me. In particular, the soaring majestic violin solo of Aboud Abdel Al on Killing Joke's song Communion. It never failed to unleash a torrent of butterflies in my stomach – the kind of deep, nervous, painful longing you only feel when you are stupidly in love with a girl you cannot have. Why did that violin make me feel that way? And more importantly, how do you play a melody like that?

      Then came 2003, and suddenly Iraq was a part of my everyday life. For the first time people took note of where I was actually from, and so did I. Depression got the better of me. I had no idea who I was or what I was doing anymore. Iraq burned and I couldn't do a single thing about it. Why such pain for a land I had never seen, air I have never breathed, people I hardly knew? I finally understood that if I wanted to do my bit, it had to be through doing something that I loved, and I love music.

      I had tried to play the 'ud over a year previously, giving up after only a few weeks, but it still fascinated me. And I was still desperate to understand how those wonderful melodies of the east were played. Although I had never really listened to it properly, I knew that the 'ud was a central instrument in the music of the Arab world. Composers used it, theorists used it, singers used it and it was old, ancient. I went to meet London-based Iraqi 'ud maestro Ehsan Emam. I was stupefied by his mastery and the 'ud itself. The simplicity of its sound – nylon string on wood – calmed my mind. Its loneliness caressed my spirit. Pure, improvised expression of sentiment enticed and bewitched me.

      In March 2004 I bought my own 'ud. I decided to dedicate my entire life, 24 hours a day, to music, and asked the 'ud to be my guide and companion. A research grant from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq enabled me to study in Cairo with Iraqi 'ud virtuoso Naseer Shamma. After being one of maybe 10 'ud players in the UK, it was a shock to be surrounded by 30 or 40, most of who were much younger and far more advanced than me. I practised eight hours a day, almost every day for those three and a half months.

      But it paid off. This year I was chosen to be the first mentee of BBC Radio 3's new scholarship/mentorship World Routes Academy. The heart of the project was a three-week trip to the Middle East to work with musicians including the renowned Iraqi singer/guitarist Ilham Al Madfai. And as if that weren't enough, the project culminates in a performance at the Proms on Monday. My programme will be based on repertoire from the Iraqi Maqam, the art music tradition of Iraq. Despite my nerves and the anxiety, I cannot wait to hear that first single solitary note ringing out in the Albert Hall.

      Music fails to chime with Islamic values, says Iran's supreme leader
      Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claims the promotion and teaching of the artform is not compatible with country's sacred regime


      Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said today that music is "not compatible" with the values of the Islamic republic, and should not be practised or taught in the country.

      In some of the most extreme comments by a senior regime figure since the 1979 revolution, Khamenei said: "Although music is halal, promoting and teaching it is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic."

      Khamenei's comments came in response to a request for a ruling by a 21-year-old follower of his, who was thinking of starting music lessons, but wanted to know if they were acceptable according to Islam, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. "It's better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music," he said.

      Unlike other clerics in Iran, whose religious rulings are practised by their own followers, Khamenei's views are interpreted as administrative orders for the whole country, which must be obeyed by the government. Last month Khamenei issued a controversial fatwa in which he likened his leadership to that of the Prophet Muhammad and obliged all Iranians to obey his orders.

      Khamenei has rarely expressed his views on music publicly, but he is believed have played a key role in the crackdown on Iran's music scene following the revolution. When Khamenei was president, he banned western-style music, forcing many stars to go into exile.

      Houshang Asadi, a former cellmate of Khamenei before the Islamic Revolution said: "He hated the music from the beginning."

      "There were times I sang a song by Banan (a popular vocalist) for him and he told me to avoid music and instead pray to God", said Asadi, who shared a cell with Khamenei for four months in Moshtarak prison in Tehran in 1976 and stayed friend with him for several years after the revolution. "The only music he liked was revolutionary and religious anthems," said Asadi.

      After the reformist President Khatami took office in 1997, official attitudes towards music and especially pop began to thaw.

      After his election in 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cracked down on music. His ministry of culture and Islamic guidance has refused permission for the distribution of thousands of albums. Since last year's disputed elections the authorities have given even fewer permits for public concerts, fearing they could be used by the opposition.

      Iran has rarely given permission to concerts, as it fears that the opposition might use it as an opportunity to express itself, said Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Iran's most prolific and popular classical vocalist.

      "They are afraid of my concerts because of those moments before the concert is begun, when the whole hall is in silence and darkness when someone suddenly shouts 'death to dictator' and everybody accompanies and they are unable to identify that person," Shajarian said.

      How One Muslim American Uses Hip-Hop to Heal Wounds
      By Madeleine Dubus
      August 2nd, 2010


      When Cyrus McGoldrick takes the stage, he’s not himself. McGoldrick raps as The Raskol Khan, often with the Freddy Fuego Sextet, an evolving group of musicians based in Harlem. The name Raskol is based on the main character in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. McGoldrick describes the first part of his pseudonym as “a rebellious force in society who’s trying to do the right thing but struggles with his environment and self.” Khan, Arabic for King or Chief, “channels a vestige of an imperial mindset, a long history of conquest,” he says. It is a history McGoldrick hopes to cleanse himself of.

      McGoldrick is not famous. He’s not revolutionary. He is a college student, a musician, and a writer. He is also Muslim in America. McGoldrick is part of the first generation of young Muslim Americans to go through their adolescence and early adulthood post-9/11.

      “9/11 was the first day of high school,” McGoldrick recalls. McGoldrick says as he sits in his rent-stabilized one bedroom apartment in Morningside Heights, the far upper west reaches of Manhattan. [Full-disclosure: McGoldrick and I first met when we attended high school together.] In the years since Sept. 11, he feels there has been a weakening of the Muslim identity.

      When forced to identify in relation to others, “the identity loses its pride in itself,” he says. “The worry is that to be a good Muslim in America you need to not be something, as opposed to what you can be.” McGoldrick wants to serve others and foster a unified Muslim community in America.

      The son of an Iranian mother and an American father of Irish descent, McGoldrick was born on January 22, 1988, in Newport, R.I. and raised in Perkasie, Pa. His mother was born and raised in Tehran; she left the country at age 17, just before the Iranian revolution of 1979.

      “Some of my family was hunted [at that time],” McGoldrick says. The effect of his family’s escape from oppression is evident in McGoldrick’s personal and spiritual evolution. He was fortunate enough to only experience isolated incidents of discrimination, partly he says, because he “was able to pass for white.”

      Though he is now a devout Muslim, McGoldrick was not raised in any particular religion. He went to Sunday school as a child though says his family always had a liberal attitude toward dogmatic religions and he grew up with an eclectic mix of relatives of all religions that gave him “knowledge of others.” McGoldrick eventually chose to devote himself to Islam after moving to New York City in 2005 to study in the Middle Eastern, South Asia, and African Studies Department at Columbia University, where he is a senior and plans to graduate in December. Tantamount to his religion, McGoldrick says community service was always a focus in his life, something his parents taught him to be of vital importance.

      Now McGoldrick prays five times a day, eats Halal, and has eliminated alcohol completely from his diet. When he’s out with his friends or playing shows, he only drinks water, a transition he says took time for his peers to get used to.

      McGoldrick works several jobs, all of which work to help New York City’s community. He tutors remedial writing and prepares GED students for qualifying exams. McGoldrick also helps with a creative writing camp his parents, both successful writers, founded. His day job is working in the office of his department of study at Columbia University, and he volunteers at the Maydan Institute and the Islamic Center at NYU.

      McGoldrick also frequently helps CAIR-NY (Council on American-Islamic Relations) organize events in the city. He recently published an op-ed in NEEM Magazine, an online magazine focused on South-Asian culture, on the Fahad Hashmi case, one of the first instances of an American citizen who plead guilty to terrorism-related charges following Sept. 11.

      McGoldrick is not your typical college student by any means, but he’s also not a naïve dreamer, imagining a world of peace. He doesn’t believe that one day every culture will get along, but he does believe that we have the potential for greater acceptance of the Muslim people.

      McGoldrick believes a unified and proud Muslim culture would counteract the anti-Muslim sentiment that began after 9/11. Hate crimes between 2003 and 2004 against Muslims rose by 50 percent. Even now, a recent poll conducted by Pew suggests that 38 percent of Americans believe Islam encourages violence. Such anti-Muslim sentiment pervades our lives daily: flawed no fly-lists based on name and not criminal history, a recent rally in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y. to oppose the building of a mosque (as well as hysteria over plans to build one near the Ground Zero site), not to mention the constant berating Islam takes in the media.

      The shift between coexistence and acceptance to fear and hate is evident. It should not even be a question in our society anymore, but McGoldrick hopes there is a way to restore balance. “Just by being us,” McGoldrick says, “[we could] make Islam a normal part of peoples lives.”

      As an example of the disparity between cultures, McGoldrick cites the government’s hallmark definition of “radicalism” as a Muslim person who has an increased faith in Islam, has grown a beard, and become more involved in activism.

      McGoldrick recalls frustration with President Barack Obama’s campaign: When Obama was repeatedly branded a Muslim, McGoldrick wished Obama had turned the question around to ask why it would matter if a president were Muslim, instead of simply vehemently denying it.

      Unfortunately, McGoldrick had to wait for General Colin Powell appeared on “Meet the Press” to endorse Obama, saying, "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no.”

      The misconception of Islam leaves those in the Muslim community feeling alienated for defining themselves in their own positive terms. McGoldrick is not immune to this feeling—in fact it seems to be the source of both his hope and uncertainty in life.

      “Sometimes I feel lost,” he says, pausing to look down at his hands. “I trust that I’ll see good come from this time—sometimes we don’t have time to pause and see where we are.”

      He ultimately finds his music, and The Raskol Khan, to be the greatest forum for addressing issues he and Muslim-Americans face today. “Music is part of my ministry,” McGoldrick says. “If I let music just be a distraction, then I’m not doing my best.”

      When he raps with the Fuego Sextet, as he often does, he speaks to his personal struggles and the political and social issues that resonate in him the most. After the Israeli Navy raided the largest ship in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara on May 31, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens of others, the band organized an upcoming show into a memorial.

      “Some people didn’t agree [with the message],” he says of the night, “but everyone was into [the music] and got something out of it.”

      McGoldrick believes the power of hip-hop lies in the opportunity to reach a more progressive audience who he believes are “automatically more receptive,” considering the genre’s history of confronting political, social, and racial injustice.

      And therein lies the purpose of The Raskol Khan: By honestly depicting McGoldrick’s former self, his history, he believes the audience can then see themselves more fully. “Rappers represent themselves as the height of achievement,” he says. “But this character is the beginning.”

      Madeleine Dubus is a staff writer for Campus Progress and a writing fellow at The New School.

      Meet Yusuf Islam: The Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens -- Twisted Tales
      Posted on Oct 1st 2010 5:30PM by James Sullivan


      The name of the singer's first single was 'I Love My Dog.' From the beginning, Cat Stevens was a star in Britain. 'Matthew and Son,' his second song to hit the charts, was kept out of the UK No. 1 spot in early 1967 only by the Monkees' 'I'm a Believer.'

      The young man who would become pop's biggest believer had the first of his epiphanies shortly thereafter. After recording two albums' worth of heavily orchestrated pop songs (including 'The First Cut Is the Deepest'), the reckless, swinging Londoner fell ill with a case of tuberculosis and a collapsed lung. A year in convalescence led to deep self-examination. By the time the former Steven Demetre Georgiou resurfaced in 1970, he was the quintessential earnest singer-songwriter.

      In his new guise, Stevens became an international superstar. His 1971 album 'Teaser and the Firecat' went gold in America in three weeks. He contributed the soundtrack to the enduring film 'Harold and Maude,' and he dated Carly Simon, leading to years-long inclusion on the list of mystery men who might have inspired 'You're So Vain.'

      But another health scare helped push the singer toward a second awakening. He nearly drowned while swimming at the Malibu Beach, Calif., home of Jerry Moss, co-owner of A&M Records. Recalling the incident, Stevens has said he shouted, "Oh, God! If you save me, I will work for you."

      Having studied Zen Buddhism, astrology and numerology, he was ready for a new life. The problem, as he once explained, was that success had felt empty to him: "I had eaten, I had drunk -- I wasn't merry."

      Soon after his brother gave him a copy of the Qur'an, Stevens converted to Islam, abandoning his musical career in the process. He founded a Muslim children's school in England and began devoting himself to humanitarian concerns.

      After more than a decade out of the spotlight, Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, made news once again. In 1989, he was asked to comment on the Ayatollah Khomeini's call for the execution of the author Salman Rushdie, who was accused of blaspheming Muhammad in his book 'The Satanic Verses.' The book featured a character called Bilal X, a converted pop musician who had become a "favored lieutenant" of a Khomeini-like figure. Some felt the character was based on Stevens.

      Speaking to university students in London, Stevens quoted the Qur'an: "If someone defames the prophet, then he must die." Later that year, appearing on a BBC program called 'Hypotheticals,' the former singer repeated his conviction. Asked whether he would attend a demonstration in which Rushdie's effigy was burned, he replied, "I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing."

      The backlash against Stevens was swift. In protest, 10,000 Maniacs deleted their cover of his anthemic song 'Peace Train' from new pressings of their 'In My Tribe' album. One DJ called for a ritual burning of Stevens' records.

      Subsequent retractions only fueled the controversy. In a letter to the UK newspaper the Sunday Telegraph headlined 'Cat Stevens Wanted Me Dead,' Rushdie wrote, "Let's have no more rubbish about how 'green' and innocent this man was."

      It would be more than a decade before the singer's reputation was sufficiently repaired. The attacks of September 11 gave him an opportunity to step back onto an international platform. He was suddenly, he felt, "in a unique position as a looking glass through which Muslims can see the West and the West can see Islam."

      Nevertheless, while en route to a meeting with Dolly Parton, Stevens was detained at an airport in Bangor, Maine, and deported to England. His name had appeared on a no-fly list.

      The issue was eventually resolved. Later that year, Stevens was honored as the Nobel committee's Man for Peace.

      Stevens eventually returned to America to support his first pop album in almost 30 years, 2006's 'An Other Cup.' He had, he said, come to recognize music as a much more unifying language than politics. "You can argue with a philosopher," he said, "but not with a good song." The new album featured original songs, with the exception of one cover -- 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.'
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