YUSUF ISLAM INTERVIEW
STEVE WRIGHT IN THE
AFTERNOON BBC RADIO 2 - 22nd. March 2000
Courtesy of David
SONG : Oh Very Young
Well, last week was the 30th
anniversary of Cat Stevens becoming a pop star in America - and the Best of album was
released to commemorate it. But at the same time, Yusuf Islam, as hes now known,
released a very different project. Now its a childrens book and album called A
for Allah and hes on the line now. Yusuf, how are you?
Oh fine, thank you Steve.
This is a real pleasure to
talk to you, you and I have never spoken in all these years. Its great to be able to
talk to you.
Well its nice to
speak to you and Im very happy also that youre talking about these two things
because they are coincidental in a way in my life but to many people might be perplexed
you know, at seeing sort of two things happening at the same time.
Where did the inspiration
come from for this album A for Allah? So its kind of self explanatory but put it to
It goes back actually after
I embraced Islam back in 1977, I married and with the birth of my first child I started
thinking really seriously you know, about how Im going to educate my child. And at
that point I started thinking more seriously about education and instinctively the first
thing I did I picked up a pen and wrote a poem. Changing if you like, the emphasis from
what Id been taught as a lad that perennially A stands for Apple. You now, and I
wanted to turn that on its head and say no - A stands for Allah. Which in other words is
God, meaning lets first of all think about the one who created apples and put things
in the right perspective. And thats really where my whole involvement in education
began and we began a Muslim school and the rest is sort of history.
You combine the spoken word
with song on the album presumably?
Yeah, Im doing the
narration which is a spoken word, we go through all the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet
and in a way we give each letter a very important meaning of faith and morality.
and its kind
of, you know, an alphabet of faith.
But its not rap?
Its not. Of course, A is for Allah itself is a song, its the first song I
ever wrote as a Muslim.
and then theres
all these other songs which not all of them Im singing. Ive found a very nice
up and coming singer from South Africa whose name is Zain Bhika and recorded him for most
of the songs but Im doing one or two.
It sounds great! Its
an educational tool isnt it?
It is, I think these days,
you know what were really lacking with everything thats happening in the
schools. You know, the recent horror of this child killing his class mates, 6 year old.
This is a warning, you know, telling us something. If were not careful, if we
dont you know rejuvenate, I think, the moral backbone of the education system the
future generation is not going to know what to teach its children. Weve got to start
somewhere, this is where I think this book is trying to help parents to tell them what to
tell children when they ask big questions you know.
And were back with
Yusuf Islam in just a minute - Cat Stevens!
SONG : I Love My Dog
Im talking here with
Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam, about his new childrens album A for Allah. You can use
your previous fame to promote this current project cant you?
The compilation album,
which came out in this country now which theyre releasing in the States - you know,
one of my conditions for getting involved and even including some of the unreleased tracks
was that they advertised my new endeavours if you like. Mountain of Light, which is my
label and A is for Allah is on there so as long as there is a kind of co-operation I feel
very happy cause I still feel some of those songs have a lot of value. I mean, look
at Where Do The Children Play (laughs) I mean I was writing that all those years ago.
Its just that Im trying to practise what I preach if you like.
I read somewhere that you
find yourself humming your old Cat Stevens tunes in the shower sometimes and I suppose
its really difficult to escape the past and I know that you dont like
answering questions about Cat Stevens - because youre not him any more. But what
happened to him?
He evolved, evolving is one
of those theories that people try and say thats how mankind came about but actually
in this sense what Im saying is, the human being that was already here but you know
he evolved from being a searcher to a finder. You know and I think a person can quite
naturally do that in his lifetime but it is quite miraculous. I feel I never ever thought
that Id find my identity. I mean, I was looking for identities, thats why I
kept on changing my name isnt it? I mean Cat Stevens is another one of my names but
Yusuf Islam is like my final identity. Who I really came to peace with and so I would say
that I came to peace with my past and my past is making peace with me today.
Your personality altered
radically didnt it, when you found religion?
When you, you know, you
come into religion from such a distance, from another world almost. You know, thats
what were talking about. Theres bound to be a rebound effect. I was kind of
rapidly moving in the other direction and not only that - its the people that you
meet in the early days have quite an effect on you and I think it comes to the point where
now after 20 odd years Ive become perhaps mature and able to look at my own way of
doing things. And I think thats the balance Ive found today. Perhaps earlier
on I was so radically against everything that Id ever said or done, you know what I
mean? It was a reaction, a knee jerk. Quite honestly, there are some valuable things which
I believe a lot of people can still find in those songs. Which even my children themselves
are finding you know. Ive got some fans within my own family so I cant help it
Favourite song that
youve ever recorded or written?
Difficult, but I keep on
coming back to a song called Sitting. It was reminded to me by a friend recently that it
was a very important song in their life. And I think it describes a lot of my journey and
where I am today because in the end it says "If I ever make it to the waterside
Ill be sure to write you a note", I think thats what Im doing.
Yeah, thanks very much for
Thanks a lot Steve.
SONG : Father And Son