Sami Yusuf

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Sami Yusuf
Sami Yusuf 2011 cropped.jpg
Sami Yusuf Live in Concert 2011
Background information
Born July 1980 (age 36)
Tehran, Iran
Origin Azerbaijani
  • Musician
  • composer
  • record producer
  • singer
  • songwriter
Years active 2003–present
Associated acts

Sami Yusuf (Persian: ﺳﺎﻣﯽ ﯾﻮﺳﻒ‎‎, Azerbaijani: Sami Yusif; born 29 July 1980) is a British musician, composer, record producer, singer and songwriter.

In 2003 Yusuf released his first album "Al-Mu`allim" at the age of 23.[1] He released his second album "My Ummah" in 2005.[2] In October 2010, Yusuf's third official album "Wherever You Are" was launched. Sami calls his genre of music "Spiritique". "Salaam" is his fourth album, that was released on 22 December 2012. On 12 September 2014, Yusuf's fifth official album "The Center" was released. In January 2015, Sami Yusuf's sixth official album "Songs of the Way" was released.[3] His seventh album, "Barakah", was released in February 2016.

Early life[edit]

An ethnic Azeri born in Tehran, Iran, Yusuf was raised in London from the age of three.[4] In one of his interviews Sami Yusuf said: Azerbaijan – my historical Motherland. My parents are Azerbaijanis, and grandparents were originally from Baku.[5] His father loaned him a book on the basics of the Tombak which Yusuf studied.[6][7] As a teenager he was a devotee of classical music and classical icons like Frédéric Chopin and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, saying that he listened to Classic FM for hours a day.[8] He went on training professionally in several other instruments including the santoor, piano, violin, oud, setar, tar, and daf under the guidance of traditional teachers, as well as professional musicians.[citation needed] While producing and demo-recording for another singer, he became aware of his own singing abilities which were further developed by the encouragement of his family. Divided between pursuing a musical career and studying law at King's College London, Yusuf opted for music while committed to "doing something dignified and respectable".[8] Although he says that he has always been spiritual, he reconnected with his Islamic faith through a "religious awakening"[9] at the age of sixteen. Yusuf self-produced and released his debut album "Al-mu'allim" at the age of 23.[10]

Professional career[edit]

(2003–2004) – Al-Mu'allim[edit]

On 10 July 2003, shortly before traveling to Egypt to study Arabic, Sami Yusuf released his debut album Al-Mu`allim, a primarily percussive album comprising eight tracks.[11] The radiant cube and purple background of the album cover symbolized "the light of the Prophetic message illuminating the darkness of the night".[11] Its feature song, "Al-Mu'allim", became an instant hit in the Middle East, North Africa, and South-East Asia topping the charts in Egypt and Turkey for twelve consecutive weeks, selling over seven million copies worldwide.[1] Believing that music can be a "powerful medium to promote ideas and establish dialogue within society",[12] he coalesced Eastern percussive instrumentation and Western melodies in "Al-Mu'allim" with a focus on the English and Arabic languages. The last track, "Supplication", was used in the Golden-Globe award-nominated film, "The Kite Runner".[13] Though the album was described as a "project to define British Muslim identity"[14] in a post 9-11 period — with explicitly religious themes praising the Prophet Mohammad and Allah in songs like "The Creator" and "Ya Mustafa" — it reached the ears of unexpectedly diverse range of listeners, constituting various nationalities, ages, and races.[11] Redirecting the current of Muslim music through his songs and professionally produced music videos ("Al-Mu'allim" and "Supplication"), Yusuf had "unintentionally" cultivated grounds for a fresh genre of music coined "Spiritique"as Yusuf is uncomfortable with the labels that were being applied to his music, like “Islamic pop,” and he didn't feel his songs fit existing categories, like nasheed. “Spiritique is a celebration of ‘sophia perennesis,' or timeless wisdom,” he said, “You can find this wisdom or truth in all the great traditions; it is in Bulleh Shah and Maulana Rumi as well as in the teachings of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers. All that wisdom has a thread of truth in it, it has the sacred in it, and that's what I'm concerned with. It's celebrating that truth, bringing people closer to that timeless wisdom.” More simply put, he said, his music is a way to bring people closer together.[10][15] by setting a new benchmark in the religious music industry. The journal Transnational Broadcasting Studies analyzed the main causes of his success by attributing it to Yusuf's ability to blend "a religious worldview with a mainstream form of entertainment, and in doing so, [communicating] a personable, accessible expression of the Islamic faith that is in harmony with the modern world and incorporated into the mundane activities of daily life. When asked if he was Sunni or Shia, Yusuf replied "I'm Muslim."[16]

(2005–2009) – My Ummah[edit]

Performing at Royal Concert Hall Glasgow, April 2006

Yusuf gained worldwide recognition following the release of his second album, My Ummah, on 6 July 2005. This album appeared in both musical and percussive versions and includes fourteen tracks. The album's thematic elements include empowerment of women in "Free", raising awareness of the plight of victims of conflict-laden regions like Palestine and Darfur in the respective tracks of "Try Not to Cry" (featuring Outlandish) and "Make A Prayer"; "Muhammad" was dedicated to the victims of the Beslan school siege, whereas "We Will Never Submit" protested against acquiescence to oppression.[17] The album, both Eastern and Western in sound, utilized wide-ranging musical instrumentation from classical instruments like the piano, violin, flute and drums to ethnic instruments like the oud, santour, tar, drums, tombak and more. "My Ummah" was an embodiment of Yusuf's "utopia for the Muslim World or humanity at large".[18] Considered a breakthrough album By Sami Yusuf, it sold over four million copies globally and was received enthusiastically by a diverse range of listeners, particularly young people, who identified closely with the topics included therein.[19] Transnational Broadcasting Studies discussed the exposure of Muslim youth to a new dawn of Islamic "art with purpose", accrediting this opening to Yusuf's music that had the power "to both preserve core cultural identity and promote spiritual and material progress".[16] Yusuf's music video featuring the Afghan folklore "Hasbi Rabbi" became a regional hit in Egypt, and was used to launch Vodafone Egypt's value-added-service (VAS) platform Vodafone Live.[20] The video portrays Yusuf in multiple characters and locations: as a practicing Muslim businessman in London, a teacher playing soccer and tutoring in Taj Mahal, then a professional Volinist jubilantly laughing and chatting with his bandmates in Turkey, and finally as a jovial carpenter in the lively bazaar's of Egypt. Recognized by The Independent as the "Voice of Islam",[21] Yusuf emphasized that he was not a "preacher",[22] rather a musician with a message[23] who believes in the urgent need for "a wave of people to come along and bridge the gaps, because we have so much in common, so much to learn from each other".[19] A major addition to his artistic repertoire was Oscar-winning director Marc Forster's proposal to Yusuf to compose a credit-piece for the Golden Globe award-nominated film, The Kite Runner.[24] Due to time constraints on both sides however, the credit piece was never realised but "Supplication", a track from Yusuf's debut album, was used to voice one of the film's climactic scenes.[25] Reluctant to be dubbed as "Islam's Biggest Rock Star" by Time, Yusuf later explained that he does not "want to be a rock star ... a popstar. ... I just want to make good music, and do what I feel I'm confident in doing ... and that's music".[10]

(2005–2009) Dispute with Former Label[edit]

In a contractual dispute lasting from 2008 to 2009, Yusuf legally separated from his former record label Awakening. He claimed the "third" album, Without You, released by Awakening in January 2009, was released without his prior "blessings nor consent". He stated: "I therefore wish to make it perfectly clear that an album comprised of any such recordings could only be put on to the market against my wishes and without my approval".[26] Yusuf subsequently stated on his official website that this album was released without his knowledge or consent, and is a compilation of demos and sketches with a quality inferior to his normally high standards. He has called for fans to boycott it.[27] However, as of April 2009 Awakening Records continues to feature the album prominently on the Sami Yusuf part of its website,[28] saying that the album is "a complete and high quality album" consisting of "11 professionally recorded tracks", and that " Sami Yusuf is signed exclusively to Awakening Records for five albums."[29] In mid-2009, he signed a five-album contract with the UK-based record label ETM International.[30]

(2009 – 2012) – Wherever You Are Pre-Release[edit]

In July 2009, Yusuf was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in recognition of his "extraordinary contributions to the field of music" by Roehampton University in southwest London.[31] Earlier in the year, he was selected to serve as the first Global Ambassador of HH Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser's (Qatar's First Lady) initiative, Silatech, which seeks to engage "the public, private and civil society sectors to promote large-scale job creation, entrepreneurship and access to capital and markets for young people".[32] Ranked in the "Top 500 Influential Muslims of 2009 (and 2010) ", a publication edited by Georgetown University's John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalın, Yusuf was described as an "internationally popular British singer-songwriter whose music has revolutionized the nasheed industry. ... He is also known for his extensive involvement in charity work".[33] Yusuf released his video single, "You Came To Me," in four languages (English, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian) in the summer of 2009.[34] Rolling Stone magazine called the style by which Yusuf sung the track's lyrics "touching", listing it as one of the key tracks of the Wherever You Are album.[35] announced the release of Wherever You Are, Yusuf's third official album, in March 2010, introducing it as "A renaissance. A Rebirth. A New Beginning".[36] Meanwhile, in the following summer, Yusuf shared his music video "Healing" sung in English and Arabic that was created in cooperation with the KSA-based International Medical Center.[37] It was also listed as another key track by Rolling Stone magazine.[35] In reference to the song's underlying philosophy of generosity in lines like "Heal and you will be healed/…Give and you will receive/It's nature's order", Yusuf's wrote on his blog: "I hope it helps, albeit in some small way, in showing that every single one of us can be a healer".[38] Amidst the 2010 Pakistan floods that wreaked havoc in the country and affected 20 million lives in the summer of 2010, he promptly released a charity single entitled "Hear Your Call", performed in English and Urdu, to raise funds for the displaced Pakistanis in a joint-effort with the UN-sponsored charity organization Save the Children.[39][40] The song was featured on a short film by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)[41] appealing for renewed donations towards the relief effort. Prompted by the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Yusuf released a free track entitled "I'm Your Hope", dedicating it to the "Shabaab" or youth.[42] The lyrics are in English and Arabic.[43] Sami Yusuf has expressed keen interest in initiating his own "record company to help artists and talents that are not supported" in the near future.[44]

(2009–2012) Wherever You Are: "New Chapter" and"Spiritique"[edit]

Performing live in the Maida Vale Studios,[45][46] Yusuf explained that "It's 2009, I have different challenges, I've got different issues and I will not sing religious-themed music just for the sake of business – it's got to be what I feel". Yusuf released his third, official studio album named Wherever You Are in October 2010, welcoming what he termed a "New Chapter" in his professional career and music.[47] "Spiritique" is Yusuf's self-coined musical and philosophical classification of his music. Spiritique, according to Yusuf, is a blend of both the "oriental and occidental" sounds, underpinned by spirituality that "will utilize music as a facilitator for spiritual appreciation, regardless of race and religion". Yusuf considers it his new sound and "something [he] wants to stand for from now".[48] With the exceptions of songs like "No Word is Worthy", "You Came To Me" and "Salaam" (though the latter is more of a 'humanitarian ode' than religiously themed) the 12 track-set album purposely draws less upon religious content[49] leaving room for interpretation for listeners of all backgrounds. Yusuf maintains, however, that it follows the "same principles and ingredients [of] honesty, [and] sincerity".[50] Introducing the album in its official trailer as a "mini diary of events"[51] that occurred from 2007 to 2010, Yusuf emphasized that the content is essentially a reflection of his worldview: "This third album is about who I am and the reality of the day and age we are living in. It talks about the hypocrisy. ... it's quite dark".[49] Songs like "Give the Young A Chance", featuring lyrics by Ian Brown, incorporate heavy usage of metaphors, likening the youth to "jewels" and allusions to "gardens where birds will sing lullabies" and "sweet scents fill the air".[52] British singer-songwriter Conner Reeves and Turkish singer Sezen Aksu also collaborated with Yusuf in the track "Without You".[53] "In Every Tear, He Is There" song, another track collaboration with Conner Reeves, concludes with an African choir singing "In Every Tear/ That is where/He is There" repeatedly in Zulu.[54] "Fragile World", Yusuf's own favorite track,[55] is reflective of the "dark"[49] experiences he underwent throughout the years.[56] Though predominantly performed in English, several tracks include verses in Arabic, Malaysian, Persian and Urdu. It has been given 3.5 stars out of 4 by Rolling Stone magazine, and commended as a "beautifully produced album".[57] Sami Yusuf has visited Turkey, UAE, and Qatar to promote "Wherever You Are" and is due to travel to Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, and Jordan in the near future,[58] plus an upcoming European tour scheduled for spring 2011.[59] In Late 2011, ETM began distributing with Sony Music Malaysia with Sami Yusuf's album Wherever you are. The video for "In Every Tear He Is There" has been released and that for "Make Me Strong" was released on 6 April 2012.[60]

(2012-2014) Release of "Salaam"[edit]

Yusuf's fourth album was released in December 2012. The physical version was released on 22 December, while the digital version was released later, on 24 December. In June 2013 it was announced through the media that Sami Yusuf had signed an exclusive worldwide publishing deal with independent music publishers Fairwood Music (UK) Ltd.

(2014-2015) The Centre[edit]

'The Centre' is a collection of thirteen songs that are tied together by a journey of spiritual discovery.[61][62]

(2015) Songs of the Way Vol. 1 (With Seyyed Hossein Nasr)[edit]

Yusuf's sixth album Songs of the Way was released on January 1, 2015. It features 12 audio tracks with a traditional Iranian and Islamic theme. All lyrics were written by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Iranian University Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University. Except for two tracks which are in Persian and Arabic, the rest of the songs are in English. Yusuf himself plays most of the instruments, and has benefited from assistance from his father Babak Radmanesh and a number of other Iranian musicians in playing traditional Iranian instruments.[63]

(2016) Barakah[edit]

Released on 1 February 2016 on Andante Records, it is also marketed as the first of a series of recordings as Spiritique Collection (Vol. 1) to be followed by further recordings under that Spiritique label. The songs are an inner journey of self-discovery, travelling to various locations and submerged in the beauty of Sufi musical traditions and inspired by the diverse Islamic musical traditions that have honoured Allah, the prophet Muhammad and the Sacred over many centuries.

Notable tours and concert performances[edit]

Playing in Faruma Arena, Denmark, Grugahalle in Germany, and De Doelen in Netherlands, Yusuf introduced his forthcoming album, Wherever You Are.[64]

250,000 people attended his performance in Taksim Square in Istanbul to see Yusuf perform in 2013.[65] Yusuf has played across four continents, packing venues such as Wembley Arena in London, Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and The Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa. He sings in English, Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Azeri, Malay and Urdu and is backed by a range of both classical and ethnic instruments.[66] Yusuf also performed in Washington DC.[67]

Yusuf performed in Dubai for the first time in December 2016. Sami premiered the song Glorification, inspired by the poetry of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.[68]

Acclaim and recognition[edit]


Charity work and humanitarian initiatives[edit]

  • Charity Event for Disabled Children – Cairo, Egypt (2005)[77]
  • Evening of Inspiration – Islamic Relief/UK Tour (2006)[78]
  • Evening of Inspiration – Islamic Relief/US Tour (2006)[19]
  • Evening of Inspiration – Islamic Relief/US Tour (2007)[79]
  • Wembley Arena – UK (2007)[80]
  • Agape Children's Orphanage concert – South Africa (2008)[81]
  • Telethon Fundraiser for Gaza (2009)[82]
  • Gaza Rally – Istanbul, Turkey (2009)[83]
  • First global ambassador of Silatech (2009)[84]
  • "Hear Your Call" – Save the Children, Pakistan (2010)[85]
  • "I'm Your Hope" (2011)[86]
  • "In Every Tear, He Is There" – Haiti, South Africa (2011)
  • Sami Yusuf joins the World Food Programme as Global Ambassador Against Hunger (2014) [87]
  • Sami Yusuf Tour 2015 in aid of orphans worldwide – Penny Appeal/UK Tour (2015).[88]



Soundtracks & compilations (singles)[edit]

  • Supplication – Adapted in The Kite Runner (2007)
  • Asma Allah (2007)
  • Palestine Forever (2009)
  • Hear Your Call (2010)
  • I'm Your Hope (2011)
  • The Source (2011)
  • Forgotten Promises (2011)[96]
  • The Rough Guide to Arabic Revolution (2013)
  • The Centre (2014)[96]
  • Sari Gelin (2014)[97]
  • The Gift of Love (2015)[98]
  • Shine (2015)[99]
  • Inna Fil Jannati (2015)[100]
  • Glorification (Live at the Dubai Opera) (2017)

Music videos[edit]

  • Al-Mu'allim – Dir. Hani Osama
  • Supplication – Dir. Hani Osama
  • Hasbi Rabbi – Dir. Hani Osama
  • Mother – Dir. Hani Osama
  • Munajat – Dir. Hani Osama
  • Asma Allah – Dir. Hani Osama
  • Healing – Dir. Jacob Viit Kusk
  • You Came to Me – Dir. Jacob Viit Kusk
  • In Every Tear, He Is There – Dir. Jacob Viit Kusk
  • Hear Your Call – Dir. Daniyal Noorani
  • I'm Your Hope – Dir. Kareem Shaaban
  • Forgotten Promises - Dir. Siros Kerdouni
  • Make Me Strong – Dir. Jacob Viit Kusk
  • It's A Game – Dir. Jorge Bompart
  • All I need − Dir. Siros Kerdouni
  • Wherever You Are | Acoustic - Arabic − Dir. Siros Kerdouni
  • Wherever You Are | Acoustic - Farsi − Dir. Siros Kerdouni
  • Wherever You Are | Acoustic - English − Dir. Siros Kerdouni
  • Sari Gelin − Dir. Omar Habib
  • The Gift of Love (2015)[98]
  • Lament − Dir. Omar Habib
  • Autumn − Dir. Saleh Nass
  • Barakah- Mast Qalander (2016)


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External links[edit]