“Spiritique”: the word kept coming up throughout British Muslim artist Sami Yusuf’s one and a half hour long press conference, held at the Regency hotel in Gammarth, in Tunis today, April 26.
Yusuf himself coined the term, referring to a musical genre that mixes Middle Eastern and Western sounds, inspired by spirituality.
The thirty one year-old British artist from London, who is of Azeri descent, spoke serenely about his musical genre “spiritique”, one day before the concert, which is “much-awaited in Tunis,” according to Tahar Ben Ammar, CEO of Avantages, the Tunisian organizer of Yusuf’s event.
This is the first time the British singer will perform in Tunisia. He has previously performed in Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. “I have wanted to come to Tunisia since 2003 and it is an absolute pleasure to be here now,” Yusuf stated.
The promotional campaign created 5,000 posters, advertising Yusuf’s concert throughout Tunisia. It also undertook a street marketing campaign and advertised the event through a Tunisian Facebook page that gathered 15,000 fans in two weeks.
“I wanted to bring people together and I was able to do it through my spiritique music. This is my philosophy,” Yusuf underlined. He dismissed claims that he intends to make dawa, or “invitation to Islam” in Arabic, through his music. “I am not part of an Islamist group, I am just an artist,” he further added.
Yusuf, who is known for his charitable and humanitarian actions, paid a visit to the SOS Gammarth Village Association for orphaned, separated and abandoned children yesterday, April 24, and gave the opportunity to thirty children to come to his concert for free. “I made a song about the flood that struck Pakistan in 2010 to raise money for the victims,” Yusuf said, speaking of his “Save the Children” charity.
When asked about the place of Islam in the West, and how it feels to be Muslim in a Western society, Yusuf highlighted the importance of “dialogue between the West and the East in a spirit of respect, tolerance and peace.” He emphasized shared similarities between people of different faiths, while regretting that many Muslim children are brainwashed to hate people of other faiths.
Yusuf also credited Tunisian Revolution, praising Tunisian youth for seeking freedom and a better life as well as Sufi tradition that goes back several centuries ago.
Yusuf paid tribute to Arab youth during the Arab Spring, and their role at the forefront of the revolts. In fact, he composed a song entitled “Ana amaluka” (“I am your hope” in Arabic) just after the Egyptian Revolution, praising Arab youth. “Young Arab people have been forgotten for so long. This is a youth movement.”
Sami Yusuf sings in English, Urdu Azeri, Hindi, Arabic and Turkish. He expressed his admiration of music from the Maghreb. “I am quite fascinated with Amazigh music, which I find very strong,” he said.
Preparations for Yusuf’s concert started in January 2012 with the help of Ghazi Taama, of the Dubai office of UK-based ETM International record company, with which Yusuf signed a five-album deal in 2010. The contract was signed later in February 2012, according to Ben Ammar. Avantages initiated a promotional campaign, distributing flyers in the Greater Tunis area and neighboring governorates of Nabeul, Sousse, Monastir and Bizerte.
Yusuf’s concert starts tomorrow April, 27. Ben Ammar hopes it will be “one of the biggest musical shows” in post-Revolution Tunisia. Yusuf will perform hits from his first album “Al Muallim”, as well as his latest album out in 2010, “Wherever You are.” The concert starts at 9 pm in Rades Arena, Tunis.