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Sami Yusuf

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Sami Yusuf
Sami Yusuf 2011 cropped.jpg
Background information
BornJuly 1980 (age 38)
Tehran[1], Iran
  • Musician
  • composer
  • record producer
  • singer
  • songwriter
Years active2003–present
Associated acts

Sami Yusuf is a British singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, record producer, and humanitarian, born in Iran.[5] Yusuf gained international attention with the release of his debut album, Al-Mu’allim, in 2003.[6] Now with over 34 million albums sold,[7][8] he performs at venues around the world;[9] the BBC, CNN,[10] ARTE,[11] FRANCE 24,[12] Reuters,[13] Time,[14] Rolling Stone, and Music Week[15] are among the media outlets that have covered him and his work, his seventh studio album, Barakah, was released in 2016.[6]

In recognition of his humanitarian work, in 2014 Yusuf was appointed United Nations Global Ambassador for the World Food Programme.[16][17][18]

Early life

Sami Yusuf was born on 1980 in Tehran to Azerbaijani parents.[19][20][21]. His grandparents are from Baku, Azerbaijan, his grandparents left Baku when it was recaptured by the Bolsheviks after the First World War.[22] From an early age, Yusuf showed great interest in music,[6] 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.[23] He learned piano and violin as well as traditional instruments including oud, setar, and tonbak.[24] In 2003, although considering pursuing a career in law, he produced and released his first album,[19] it quickly became an international success and launched Yusuf's professional music career.[23]

Music career

'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,[25][26] his first album, Al-Mu’allim, in English with some Arabic lyrics, became a huge success especially across North Africa and the Middle East.[6] It was followed by My Ummah, and together album sales quickly reached 10 million.[27][15] Yusuf has performed across five continents, his concerts— including ones at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, the Wembley Arena in London,[28] and the Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa— are sold out.[29] 250,000 people came to hear him perform in Taksim Square in Istanbul.[30][31][32] Time Magazine called Yusuf "Islam's Biggest Rock Star";[33] The Guardian wrote of him, "The Biggest Star in the Middle East is a Brit";[34]


2003 – 2014

In 2003 Yusuf released his debut album, Al-Mu`allim, an album that he produced, wrote, and performed,[35] 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.[36][37] The last track of the album, "Supplication", was used in the Golden-Globe award-nominated film, "The Kite Runner".[13][38]

Yusuf garnered increased worldwide recognition following the release of his second album, My Ummah, in 2005;[39] the album, using both Eastern and Western sounds, utilized wide-ranging musical instrumentation. Considered a breakthrough album by Sami Yusuf, it sold over four million copies globally[40] and was well received particularly by young people, who identified closely with the themes of Yusuf's lyrics.[36][41]

Wherever You Are, Yusuf's third official album, was released in March 2010. Rolling Stone called the album "beautifully produced".[42] With its release, Yusuf welcomed what he termed a "new chapter" in his professional career and music.[43][35]

Yusuf's fourth album, Salaam, was released in December 2012.[44] Within 4 months of its launch it achieved platinum status in Southeast Asia and was the best-selling album in the Middle East and North Africa;[45][46][47] 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.[47][48][49][50]

2014 - The Centre

The Centre was released in 2014 and is a collection of thirteen songs in which Yusuf hopes his listeners will find inspiration to seek their individual spiritual centres.[51][38] It’s a new sound that has multicultural influences, employing traditional as well as contemporary Middle Eastern, North African, and European poetry, instrumentation, and melodies.[52][53]

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.[54][55][51]

2016 – Barakah

Barakah, Yusuf’s seventh album, was released in February 2016 by Andante Records,[56] 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;[57][58] the song ‘Mast Qalandar’ from Barakah reached #1 on World Music charts on iTunes and BBC Music.[59][60][61][62]

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."[63]

2018 – SAMi (EP)

Sami Yusuf releases 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 sound is contemporary and minimalist; the lyrics shine a light on the path that Sami has traveled on his own spiritual journey. It’s a side of the musician that is fully developed here for the first time; the songs are direct; they are personal. And they are about transcendence—about seeing the big picture and where we fit in. [64]

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. [65]

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. [66]

2019 – Ecstasy

Sami Yusuf will release his next album later in the year. “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. [67]

Notable tours and concert performances

Playing in Farum Arena, Denmark, Grugahalle in Germany, and De Doelen in Netherlands, Yusuf introduced his forthcoming album, Wherever You Are,[68] 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.[69] 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.[70] Yusuf also performed in Washington DC.[71]

Yusuf performed in Dubai for the first time in December 2016. Sami 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.[72]

Humanitarian work

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.[50] 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.[73][74]

In 2014, he was appointed "UN Global Ambassador" for the World Food Programme.[75]

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.[76][77]

Widely regarded as the highest profile Muslim musician in the UK, Yusuf has appeared each year on the list of the "World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims" since 2010.[78][79] 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.[80][81]

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.[82]


Studio albums

Album Year
Al-Mu`allim 2003
My Ummah 2005
Wherever You Are 2010
Salaam 2012
The Centre 2014
Songs of the Way, Vol. 1 2015
1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-Haytham (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 2015
Barakah 2016
SAMi 2018

Live albums

Album Year
Live at the Wembley Arena 2007
Live at the Katara Amphitheatre 2013
Live in London 2015 2015
Live at the Dubai Opera 2016
Live in Concert 2019

2018-2019 Singles

Album Year
Let Us Not Forget January 2018
Mawlana January 2018
Shadowless February 2018
Al Faqīr May 2018
Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum Feat Abida Parveen Feb 2019

Acclaim and recognition


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External links