Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 17:11 UK

Talking Shop: Sami Yusuf

He has been described as Islam's biggest rock star and his music comprises mostly of songs about being a Muslim in today's world.

British singer-songwriter Sami Yusuf has already sold millions of copies of his first two albums, with his third close to completion.

He rose to fame after 9/11 and used his songs to promote the message of Islam and encourage young Muslims to be proud of their religion and identity.

Recently he recorded an exclusive live session at the legendary Maida Vale Studios for the BBC Asian Network Eid Party.


How does it feel to be here at the Maida Vale Studios?

It's an amazing experience. I am literally humbled. I was Twittering and leaving messages on Facebook because it's such an honour to perform here. I hope it's going to sound good because it's quite nerve-wracking.

Sami Yusuf
Yusuf has been working on his third album

You're here to record tracks from your forthcoming album for the BBC Asian Network - tell us about your new record.

I'm spending a lot of time on this album because I want it to be special. I've followed my heart with this one and I hope it'll be successful.

I am not the Sami Yusuf of 2003. 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.

The kind of songs I will be singing about are my feelings and what I have been going through these last two years - the difficulties and challenges I have faced - the loneliness, the frustration and the anger. For example there is a track called Holy People which is about pretentious people.

It is not a typical, pop commercial album - it's me! It's how I have always been and will continue to be - I sing from my heart and the rest is in His hands.

Will we see you on tour? It's been a while.

Definitely I hope to do a world tour with the release of the album which will happen some time next year.

It's a long time for your fans to wait, especially when you've built up such a massive following?

I know and I owe it all firstly to Allah and then to my fans who have supported me. I now have my own website where I release tracks, I blog and I'm regularly in touch with everyone. In fact one of the biggest interviews I did for Egyptian TV came about through supporters and fans - them communicating with me and them getting in touch with the TV station - it's incredible how small the world has become.

Many would say music like yours could help dispel the negative image of Islam?

I'm a proud British Muslim artist doing my thing, following my heart and it's beautiful to be an inspiration to people. I've been called many things - I've been called the Voice of Islam - but to be honest with you I distance myself from that purely because who the heck am I to be the voice of anything?

Sami Yusuf
Yusuf took part in a concert for Darfur in 2007

I represent myself and if I can be a good person and do my craft that's a great thing and if at the same time I can be a source of inspiration to Muslims - fantastic!

How hard was it to establish yourself as an Islamic singer?

After 9/11 I felt there was a huge vacuum in terms of Muslim identity - what am I first? Am I Muslim or am I British? The first album is mostly focussed on the UK and playing a part in forming a British Muslim identity.

It became a global success but I honestly did not sit at the piano making Al Mu'allim thinking is this going to be a hit or not. I was overwhelmed by its success - I never set out to make this my career.

I try and remain grounded. I'd like to think I haven't changed - I am a simple person and I am approachable. I greet everybody and I hug them. People tell me I shouldn't do these things because I am a star, but I want to be who I have been all my life. As long as I am cautious with my business decisions I don't want to change as a person. I am very happy with my life and grateful for everything.

Sami Yusuf spoke to the BBC Asian Network's Shabnam Mahmood.



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