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Sounds of Shaam

Sounds of Shaam

Issue 5 May / Jun 2004

First featured in issue 5 - May/June 2004

Click here to go to the Issue 5 archives


Shaam are renowned as one of the seminal Nasheed artists of our time. emel speaks to the group who since the late ‘90s have developed their unique brand of Islamically inspired music.


Brothers Haroon and Imran Bashir met Mahmood Norris and Yasin Alam during their university years and formed a lasting bond. From the beginning all four friends indulged a deep-rooted love for singing nasheeds. It wasn’t until the group travelled on a trip to Damascus, Syria to study Arabic and Islamic studies that they appreciated the true depth and art of singing nasheeds and playing the duff – a traditional single sided drum. Haroon reminisced of his studying era: “The nasheeds we experienced in Syria were beautiful and the people had so much love for them they would sing in praise of God, His Blessed Messenger and the Deen (religion) of Islam from house to house, school to school; both old and young. They would all be in praise and this is what we felt was missing from the lives of Muslims living in the West.”

With this in mind and with support and encouragement from friends and families they came together in 1997 as Shaam. The inspiration behind the name was the inspiration behind the group – Syria, known as Shaam in Arabic. As well as being recognised by the Muslim world the name could be used as a memorable catchphrase or slogan.

Feeling that there was a distinct lack of Islamic entertainment amongst the western Muslim community, Shaam hoped to fill it with nasheeds that would provide a form of expression appealing to younger Muslims. Mahmood felt that there was a certain stigma attached to Islamic music that had to be overcome. “Nasheeds have now become popular and are a part of all our lives. When we first started people believed it was okay to listen to Bollywood but to sing nasheeds with the traditional duff was wrong! This was exactly the kind of issue we had to educate our community on and was a major aspect for us to bring people closer to Islam; to instil love for God and His Beloved Messenger Muhammad, to keep traditional Islam alive. This is our intention behind Shaam.”

The love and dedication for nasheeds started early on for each member of Shaam and has been developed through experiences both from childhood and teachings in Syria. Imran and Haroon came from a strictly practicing Muslim family who instilled the importance and love for Islam from the start. This coupled with the experience of entering nasheeds competitions at their local mosques resulted in a deep affection and passion for continuing in nasheeds. Yasin Alam has a rich background in nasheeds due to his African Asian background as his parents are from Kenya and Uganda. The tradition of nasheed gathering developed his passion and led him to the group. Mahmood always harboured a love for music and eventually become interested in nasheeds after accepting Islam. The diversity of their backgrounds has influenced their work and approach to nasheeds.

Mahmood accepted Islam nine years ago and relishes his relationship with Islam which informs his music. “To me Islam is and should be everything. I strive to live by it. Though we are weak in this task we ask God to be merciful with us and overlook our short-comings.” Haroon equally feels that Islam is all-encompassing. “Islam is undoubtedly the most beautiful religion and most perfect way of life, and I say that with great confidence and not arrogance. I have been through experiences in my life over the past few years and only having faith in Allah has got me through them, I have many friends and have seen many examples before me where people don't practice a faith and they are always hitting a dead end in life, for me religion is the balance in life though I can't say that I am a perfect Muslim. I strive to better myself and ask God for his forgiveness and guidance at all times.”

Not only does their music enrich the lives of their listeners, but being part of the group enriches their own personal faith. The performances have an energising effect on the four singers and success as a result of their love for the music has meant that they have become closer to Islam and grateful of their triumphs. Imran says that being part of the group has helped him by – “opening up my mind, broadening my knowledge and strengthening my faith. We each have our own influences, we each have our own strengths and weaknesses but by sharing and supporting each other it has taught us a great deal about brotherhood in Islam.”

Shaam enjoy personal gatherings the most due to the intimate nature of the performances allowing them to gauge the reaction and love from the audience. “The best kind of singing is that in which we intend worship, and I am most happy when others come with that understanding, not just in order to be entertained.” Shaam have a positive view on the effects of their work, “we believe even if one person can leave the gathering with a different and if not changed view towards Islam we have done our job.”

The humble approach they have to their art is evident when asked about the effects of fame. “As Muslims we do not acknowledge 'Fame' and attach no importance to it, especially as this concept has so many Western connotations with respect to singing. It is more important to us that Muslims are interested in and turning towards the rich Islamic Culture that Islam offers albeit in the form of Nasheeds.”

We ask that Allah protects us all from the delusions of the self which loves to be praised and noticed. All Praise is due to Him who has blessed us with a heart that receives inspiration, an intellect that expresses it, and a voice to recite it.”

With two successful albums to their name Shaam are working on the release of their third album that is produced live in concert to convey a different listening experience for their fans. The record will be produced under the Meem music label. “There will be a mini Nasheed Extravaganza Concert CD featuring Shaam live in concert being released towards the summer giving people a little taste of what’s to come with our session albums towards the latter part of the year, again this is a very important project and one that a lot of people have been in wait for (especially our record label), these albums will be more spiritually charged and a totally different twist to Shaam.”

With families and other work to fit in and after 44 performances this year, Shaam are taking it easy. Eventually they will start working on their third studio album to satiate their fans.

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