Keep It Halal: Six Artists To Listen To This Ramadan
It is another Ramadan.
Apart from being a month during which Muslims can bump up their spirituality, it is a month that is replete with fun and beautiful camaraderie.
It is this month that the spirit of the togetherness that Islam preaches can be seen at its peak.
During Ramadan, Muslims are enjoined to fast with all parts of their bodies. More like saying, speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.
But if you are addicted to rap and pop music like this writer, there is a chance that you are in a bit of conundrum about how to keep your playlist halal.
Worry no more, I’ve got you.
You see, there are Muslims acts that are doing rap and other pop music wonderfully well. Some you may have never heard of. But rest assured that they create beautiful, uplifting music.
I stumbled on Mona Haydar’s first official single “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab),” a potent and breezy anthem for Hijabis all over the world on Huffington Post in 2017. It was the beat that got me first: the fine blend of the Middle East and hip-hop elements is infectious. And I’m still a fan.
Also a poet and theologian, Mona is in the process of dropping her debut album. Before then, you can bump to her debut EP title Barbarican.
Arguably the most popular Islamic singer living right now, Maher Zain is one artist you want to listen to Ramadan or not. He is the most followed Islamic singer on Facebook and has the highest views in that class. 5.8 billion views don’t lie. Maher is also big on Twitter and Instagram.
The multi-platinum selling artist is a Swede who became popular on the strength of his unique voice and well-crafted R&B-influenced songs. I stumbled on his ‘Awake’ single in 2009. Three albums and plenty of singles after, I’m yet to get enough of him.
Did I say his debut album Thank You Allah sold over 10 million copies? Okay, I just did.
Maher Zain led me to Raef. There was a time anything Maher did was fine to me. So when I heard his collabo with the American, I knew I had to check out Raef. Safe to say I was not disappointed in what he has to offer. One thing I love about Raef is how he is able to marry punk rock and pop to popular Islamic nasheeds.
His debut album The Path was released in 2014. His second album titled Mercy is set to drop sometime this year.
Apart from singing, Raef is a star of a Ramadan TV series, ‘Journey of a Backpacker’ in Indonesia. In the series, Raef visits notable Indonesian towns and cities and encounters a host of interesting characters along the way.
Like Raef, Maher Zain led me to Irfan Makki, a Pakistani-Canadian singer with a silky, soothing voice. I have only listened to his third album I believe, which was released on Awakening Records, but that one album is enough for me to put Makki on this list.
If you love hip-hop, you will definitely love Deen Squad. The squad is made up of two ‘brothers’ – Jae Deen (real name Sheikh Jamal, a Ghanaian convert formerly known as Joshua Asare and Karter Zaher).
Deen Squad became widely known for its Halal Remixes, which basically means putting an Islamic spin on popular hip-hop songs. Their popularity soared after being covered by CNN, BBC and Fader.
While Deen Squad became famous because of their Halal Remixes, they have, however, released three EPs containing original songs.
Imagine being invited to perform at prestigious universities such as Yale and Oxford. Well, Khaled does not have to imagine anymore. Of Jamaican, English and Irish heritage, his music is influenced by hip-hop, pop and dancehall.
One of the most famous Muslim performers in the United Kingdom, Khaled, a YouTuber with more than 28 million views and charity worker, rejected an invite from British prime minister Theresa May to mark the end of Ramadan at 10 Downing Street in 2018. His reason? Britain’s foreign policy.
Listening to Ya Habibi and Say Mashalllah will be a good way of introducing yourself to this amazing young talent.