|Is||Singer Songwriter Diplomat Actor|
|From||United Kingdom Iran|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music Politics|
|Birth||21 July 1980, Tehran, Central District, Tehran County, Iran|
Sami Yusuf (born 21 July 1980) is an Iranian-born British Muslim singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, record producer, and humanitarian of Azerbaijani descent. Yusuf gained international attention with the release of his debut album, Al-Mu`allim, in 2003. Now with over 34 million albums sold, he performs at venues around the world. His work and popularity were covered by most major media outlets, including BBC, CNN, Reuters, among others. As of 2020, Yusuf has released 8 studio albums, 5 live albums, 1 compilation album, and multiple singles throughout his career. His studio albums were mostly released by Andante Records, except first two released by Awakening Records.
Besides his native English, Sami has performed in Arabic, Azeri, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, sometimes in the same work, as was the case with his hit, Hasbi Rabbi. His work is marked by blending different musical styles and genres, including elements from Sufi, folk, and Rock music. He used his multilingual and multi-instrumentalist style to address social, spiritual, and humanitarian issues. In recognition of his philanthropy, in 2014, Yusuf was appointed United Nations Global Ambassador for the World Food Programme.
Sami Yusuf was born in 1980 in Tehran to Azerbaijani parents. His grandparents are from Baku, Azerbaijan, which they left to Britain when it was recaptured by the Bolsheviks after the First World War. From an early age, Yusuf showed great interest in music. He was influenced by the wide range of musical genres available to him in his home town of Ealing in West London, immersing himself especially in Western classical music and Middle Eastern music. He learned the piano and violin as well as traditional instruments including the oud, setar, and tonbak. At the age of 16, Yusuf experienced a spiritual revival that made him become a "more committed Muslim". In 2003, although considering pursuing a career in law, he produced and released his first album. It quickly became an international success and launched Yusuf's professional music career. Yusuf studied music as a composition student at the prestigious Royal Academy, as well as at Salford University in north-west England.
Spiritique is the name Yusuf has given to his unique musical style that blends elements of Western and Eastern sounds. The overarching theme of Yusuf's lyrics is one of an inclusive spirituality. His first album, Al-Mu’allim, in English with some Arabic lyrics, became a huge success especially across North Africa and the Middle East. It was followed by My Ummah, and together album sales quickly reached 10 million. Yusuf has performed across five continents. His concerts— including ones at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Wembley Arena in London, and the Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa— sold out. 250,000 people came to hear him perform in Taksim Square in Istanbul. Time called Yusuf "Islam's Biggest Rock Star", while The Guardian wrote of him, "The Biggest Star in the Middle East is a Brit".
2003 – 2014
In 2003, Yusuf released his debut album, Al-Mu`allim, an album that he produced, wrote, and performed. Its feature song, Al-Mu'allim, became a hit in the Middle East, North Africa, and South-East Asia, topping the charts in Egypt and Turkey for twelve consecutive weeks, selling millions of copies worldwide and reaching a diverse audience. The last track of the album, Supplication, was used in the Golden-Globe award-nominated film, The Kite Runner.
Yusuf garnered increased worldwide recognition following the release of his second album, My Ummah, in 2005. The album, using both Eastern and Western sounds, utilized wide-ranging musical instrumentation. Considered a breakthrough album, it sold over four million copies globally and was well received particularly by young people, who identified closely with the themes of Yusuf's lyrics.
Wherever You Are, Yusuf's third official album, was released in March 2010. Rolling Stone called the album "beautifully produced". With its release, Yusuf welcomed what he termed a "new chapter" in his professional career and music.
Yusuf's fourth album, Salaam, was released in December 2012. Within four months of its launch it achieved platinum status in Southeast Asia and was the best-selling album in the Middle East and North Africa. The album includes the song "Hear Your Call," composed by Yusuf to call attention to the situation of people who are affected by natural disasters.
2014 – The Centre
The Centre was released in 2014 and is a collection of 13 songs in which Yusuf hopes his listeners will find inspiration to seek their individual spiritual centres. It is a new sound that has multicultural influences, employing traditional as well as contemporary Middle Eastern, North African, and European poetry, instrumentation, and melodies.
2015 – Songs of the Way
Yusuf's sixth album, Songs of the Way, was released in January 2015. All lyrics are by the noted philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr and are from his books of poetry, Poems of the Way and The Pilgrimage of Life. Except for two tracks in Persian and Arabic, the songs are in English.
2016 – Barakah
Barakah, Yusuf's seventh album, was released in February 2016 by Andante Records. It is the result of extensive research into the traditional music and poetry contained in the album. Yusuf said it is his musical response to the increasing chaos and noise of today's world, and his wish is that these music and lyrics offer a window onto an inner oasis of peace and harmony. The song "Mast Qalandar" from Barakah reached #1 on World Music charts on iTunes and BBC Music.
According to Yusuf, the new album aims "to respond to the growing extremism in our world with a call for a return to harmony and balance."
2018 – SAMi (EP)
Yusuf released his new EP SAMi as a side project by this prolific artist that grew out of his desire to explore his British musical roots.
The song collection, with its accessible sounds and direct lyricism, finds Yusuf's exploring the western sounds emanating from his childhood growing up in London.
SAMi has sold well and topped a number of iTunes charts since its release, and Yusuf says he is grateful and somewhat surprised that he wasn't criticised for the commercial nature of the project.
2019 – Ecstasy
“The album is called Ecstasy. We deliberately chose that name because Ecstasy has this weird connotation. People think it is a drug, but actually ecstasy is a state that people attain or reach when they are going through a spiritual experience,” he said.
Notable tours and concert performances
Playing in Farum Arena, Denmark, Grugahalle in Germany, and De Doelen in the Netherlands, Yusuf introduced his forthcoming album, Wherever You Are. He performed in Azerbaijan for the first time in 2006, for the second time in 2015 (14-15 March), and 22 March 2017 in Heydar Aliyev Palace in Baku, 250,000 people attended his performance in Taksim Square in Istanbul to see Yusuf perform in 2013. 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. Yusuf also performed in Washington DC.
Yusuf performed in Dubai for the first time in December 2016. He 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.
Since early in his professional career, Yusuf has participated in humanitarian initiatives through performing benefit concerts, releasing charity singles, and acting on behalf of organizations working to relieve suffering and poverty. In response to 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.
In 2014, he was appointed "UN Global Ambassador" for the World Food Programme.
Although a Shia Muslim by birth, Sami declared that he has embraced Sunni Islam while growing up. Sami spoke of his background as "diverse" and cited this as evidence for his "tendency to bring people together".
Sami Yusuf married in c. 2005. His wife is of German origin and had converted to Islam before she met Yusuf.
Religious and political views
Sami Yusuf has gained widespread popularity throughout the Muslim world for his spiritual music. But artists like him and Maher Zain have faced some opposition from conservative Muslims who deem music impermissible. In 2006, Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and a convert to Islam, wrote a censurious article in opposition to what she perceived as a pop culture that demeans Islam. She considered Sami's open national affiliation to be lackadaisical about conflicts in the Islamic region in which Britain was participating, like the Iraq war. In response, Sami wrote an open letter extensively discussing his stance on music and the modern art industry in general from both an Islamic jurisprudence perspective and a social one. The response was commended by several commentators.
In a previous interview, Yusuf described himself as generally apolitical. Later in 2017, he wrote an open letter criticizing the Trump Muslim ban. Quoting the famous poem First they came, Yusuf emphasized solidarity between the Western and Muslim worlds and opposed Trumpism.
Honors and awards
In 2009, Yusuf was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of his "extraordinary contributions to the field of music" by Roehampton University, London. Silatech appointed him as their first Global Ambassador in the same year, later joining Ahmad Al Shugairi in the same position.
Widely regarded as the highest profile Muslim musician in the UK, Yusuf has appeared each year since 2010 on the list of the "World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims".
In 2014, the United Nations appointed him Global Ambassador Against Hunger, and in 2015 the UN appointed him as an "Elite Ambassador" for the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.
In 2016, Yusuf received a Recognition Award for his contributions to promoting the message of peace and tolerance as part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum World Peace Initiative.
In 2019, Yusuf received an honorary diploma from the First Vice President of Azerbaijan for his contributions to promote Azerbaijani music and culture.
In the media
- "Islam's Biggest Rock Star" – Time magazine (2006)
- "Biggest Star in the Middle East" – The Guardian (2006)
- "King of Islamic Pop" – Al Jazeera (2007)
- IOL Star of 2009 (2009)
- BBC's 30 More Famous Britons (2009)
|Wherever You Are||2010|
|Songs of the Way, Vol. 1||2015|
|Live At the Katara Amphitheatre||2015|
|Live in Concert 2015||2015|
|Live in London 2016||2016|
|Live at the Dubai Opera||2016|
|Live in Concert - EP||2019|
|Live in new Delhi - EP||2019|
|Azerbaijan: A Timeless Presence (Live in Baku)||2019|
|Live at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music||2019|
|The House Concert||2020|
|The Sapiential Album, Vol. 1||2020|
|O Lovers: Music from the Unseen World||2020|
|Forgotten Promises||Dec 2011|
|The Source||Aug 2011|
|Hope Survives||Apr 2014|
|Mast Qalandar ft. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan||Apr 2016|
|Al Faqīr||May 2018|
|Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum ft. Abida Parveen||Feb 2019|
|Khorasan (instrumental)||Apr 2019|
|Oblivion (Instrumental)||Apr 2019|
|Light upon light ft. A.R. Rahman||Nov 2019|
|The 99 Names||May 2020|
|One ft. Cappella Amsterdam, Amsterdam Andalusian Orchestra||Jun 2020|