20 Apr 2012


Artist once known as Cat Stevens explains why he left music, why he returned and why his latest project tops the rest.
Malika Bilal Last Modified: 18 Apr 2012 10:35 Edited SWTR 20/4/2012

Yusuf is currently working on a musical featuring songs he wrote as Cat Stevens 

 It's a Musical Fantasy. Set to premiere in Australia on May 31, the production is a mix of the artist's hits from the 1970s with a string of fresh songs penned for the play.

The musical represents a summit of sorts - topping a controversial career that has seen Yusuf go from triple-platinum award winning musician to a man on the verge of abandoning his craft forever.

 He says at one point, perhaps music was his my religion. For a lot of us growing up in the West in the early '60s and then '70s, music was a way of life. It was a way to express ourselves. I was a serious dreamer and I was looking for the truth.
Then he finally bumped into Islam through a gift of the Quran, he realised that all the answers I needed were there.

 So he trod very carefully. He decided because of the almost insulting approach that the media took to him about embracing Islam that he had had enough of that, so he didn't bother to continue.

It was his son who finally brought guitar back into the house. When he picked it up, he suddenly realised he had another job to do.

His son didn't say anything. He just left it, and he was surprised that he remembered where his fingers should go.

What would he tell other Muslims who have a passion for music but are also trying to walk this line - this schizophrenia of sorts that oscillates between 'music is good' and 'music is forbidden'?

Well as far as sacred texts are concerned, they cannot be ambiguous he says. There are no gray areas. When it comes to music, there is no word 'music' in the Quran.
Obviously there are insinuations and implications and situations where music is being played and its haram because there’s drinking and fornication - well that’s sex, drugs and rock and roll.

But in the end, it is the interpretation. So yes, I believe there is haram(bad) music and yes, I believe there is halal (permitted) music.

Is there an over-arching theme in his music or an outward meaning of his songs he wants to convey?

Yes he says: He tells stories. He tries to tell true stories. It's about how people live and what their problems are - how we love and fall into trouble and bleed and laugh. That’s ended up being the theme of his musical that he's writing and that he's going to put on in Australia at the end of May.

It's all to do with journey he says. There are only two types of stories: those about leaving home and those about coming back.

So where did his idea for this musical Moonshadow come from?

He says: I grew up on the West End of London surrounded by theaters and musicals and always dreamt of writing a musical. It happens that now I have the perfect opportunity, after having written so many songs.

It's a story about a world where there’s no sun and no day, only night. There's only one moon providing natural light.
That means everybody has to work extra hard to buy these embers to keep their houses warm.

In the middle of all this, there's a boy who has a dream about another world - the World of the Lost Sun, called Shamsiya. He meets his moon shadow and he decides to go on a journey to find that World of the Lost Sun.

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