If you were at MuslimFest this year, you know that gone are the years of Junaid Jamshed who serenaded us with his soulful nasheeds and always hesitated when the audience insisted a little remembrance of “Dil Dil Pakistan”. And the Mustaqeem brothers who beat-boxed an entire album in acapella, keeping it real, while keeping it halal as well. If you shifted a little uncomfortably when Native Deen took the stage in the past, you would have completely passed out with this year’s “artists”. MuslimFest brought attention to a very interesting, yet controversial topic in our community. Those who hadn’t been to a rock concert before, have been to one now. With all the elements of crazy fans on their feet, crowds of people swarming to catch a glimpse of their favorite star and screaming teenagers, there wasn’t much “family” in this year’s fun.
What started off innocently enough on Main Stage with Dawood Wharnsby quickly turned into madness when the likes of Harris J, Maher Zain and Deen Squad came on. Not only was it really hard to follow the lyrics somewhere in the midst of the music, but it was impossible to take pride in their work as a showcase of Muslim talent. Perhaps I’ve outgrown my concert days and officially crossed over to become an “auntie”, but what I heard didn’t sound like nasheeds. I’m guessing since all the teenage girls were swooning, it must have been entertaining for someone, and since all the parents looked a little perplexed with the entertainment line up, there is a conversation that needs to be had.
How do we feel about the modern Muslim music phenomenon? Is it just a sell out in the name of nasheeds? Or is it keeping up with the changing needs of our youth? When Harris J sang “We can go wherever you want to, and do whatever you like. Let’s just have a real good time”, unless he was talking about some quality time with the brothers, I’m sure there’s something wrong here. Much to my shock, when I heard Deen Squad sing “Muslim Man” I couldn’t believe they were normalizing the use of lyrics like “mother lover” (in case you didn’t hear it… it’s close competition to mother *#@&@!).
As the youth in the audience sang along, my husband looked at my face and offered reassurance that it was much better than the alternative. The fandom of these Muslim popstars represents a generation craving to belong. A generation torn between obligations to faith, and desire to blend into the cultural norms. What seems to me is that we have doctored the system to meet our own insecurities as Muslims. Since there is no more pride in acknowledging that we’re different, we let the youth succumb to this stark resemblance to mainstream music. Maybe I’m being too harsh when I’m offered an alternative with reasonably sound lyrics… at least the kids aren’t using derogatory language and swearing and talking about sex.
So, the great Muslim Music debate is on… do we modernize with the culture and accept the changes in the music scene and accept it as a safer alternative to mainstream music? Or has a line been crossed?
Share your thoughts and vocalize your opinion. ISNA Lanterns would love to hear what you have to say!