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Salford Uni celebrates the ‘diversity, beauty and cultural importance’ of Muslim music

By Iram Ramzan

The University of Salford celebrated its second Muslim World Music Day last Tuesday.

The event, first celebrated last year, was established by the ARChive of Contemporary Music, the Arts Initiative at Columbia University, Gracenote, the Internet Archive and Columbia University Libraries, in an online effort to identify and catalog all the recordings of Muslim music in the world

The programme itself was decided by Justine Loubser, a lecturer in Ethnomusicology, World Music and Composition at the University, and presented a diversity of music from a range of Islamic countries and cultures.

Harriet Morgan-Shami, Arts Development Officer, said that the aim was to commemorate the ‘diversity, beauty and cultural importance’ of Muslim music.

She said: “It will be a step towards making this culturally significant body of work readily available to people around the globe for study and enjoyment.”

The music was both religious and non religious, as the University recognised that there is a diverse approach to performance within Islam.

Although there were threats of students attempting to protest at the event, the night went well without any disruptions.

The ‘souk’ (market) opened at 12pm, where guests had the chance to experience the cultural delights from all over the Islamic world, from Senegal all the way to India.

Ustad Hafeez Ali Khan, an Indian singer of Qawwali music (devotional music from the Sufi sect of Islam) has been performing since the age of seven alongside his father, and sung a mixture of both religious and non religious music o the night.

Hailing from six previous generations of Sufi Qawwali singers, his son is set to continue this family venture, as he performed on Tuesday alongside his father.

“Music is love,” he said. “It is an easy way to connect to God.”

His aim was to broaden people’s horizons and learn about Sufism in general.

He said: “We want people to know ‘what is Sufism’, to like it and to love it.”

Also performing was The Nile Band. Founded in England in 2000 by tabla player Medhat El Masry, The Nile Band fuses together rhythms from the Arab world with French, Turkish, Greek, Persian, Latin and English popular songs. 

Of all the performances, theirs encouraged several audience members (in particular women) to even come up on to the stage to dance along with their upbeat tempos.

Beyrem Tounsi, one of the singers in the band, has been singing since he was 16 years old.

“I sing for happiness and love,” he said.

Some of his inspirations are old Arabic singers and even Beethoven.

Though most of the songs are in foreign languages, Beyrem said: “If they don’t understand the words, I know they’re gonna enjoy it. That is what most of my English friends say to me, ‘I don’t understand what you’re singing but we enjoy it’.”

Jayne Miller, an audience member who came all the way from Poynton, Cheshire, enjoyed the percussion workshop that was available that day and is a fan of The Nile Band.

She said: “I’ve listened to them before; they’re really good, really excellent.”  

Dee Sheehan, from Chorlton, enjoyed the ‘informality’ of the event.

“There was some lovely spontaneous dancing,” she said. “The whole thing has a really nice atmosphere and a family ambience.”

The university is hoping to host the event again next year.

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