One of the UAE's most popular nasheed artists, Ahmed Bukhatir, has returned with a new single celebrating the advent of Ramadan. The Sharjah singer this week released his latest single Can You Forgive Me? in the hope it encourages Muslims to make the most of the holy month's spiritual gift, while he also plans to publish his debut fantasy novel, Dragon Boy, early next year.
What is the challenge of composing a good Ramadan nasheed single?
Ramadan has its own vibe, so to speak. It is an extremely spiritual period, so the way you write a song celebrating that is different to doing a song about Eid, for example. During Ramadan, worshippers have this feeling of returning to Allah and repenting. People read the Quran more and generally they want to be in a spiritual mode throughout the whole month, and hopefully beyond. As a nasheed artist, you need to compose a melody that is soothing and makes you feel good about Ramadan and yourself.
Repentance and forgiveness are the central themes of ‘Can You Forgive Me?’ How did you come up with that concept?
It began with this idea that Ramadan is a time when people repent to Allah, return to their families and mend any ties that are broken. It is about smiling again and coming back together as a family. It is not really a new Ramadan message, but it's a reminder to people to forgive each other.
You are a popular international performer and last year you completed a sold-out, six-date tour of the UK. How does it feel when you take your songs abroad?
When I perform overseas I often have this feeling that nobody will know me because I am a foreigner. But to meet these people who know my music, have my albums and to see them – with all their different ethnicities – happy to see me is really beautiful. In London, a Christian couple went to my show because they said the music touched them in some way and that's amazing to me.
Do you feel your concerts are more important now because you are performing to Muslim communities who often feel marginalised in their own countries?
It is very important and I try to perform live regularly. Many people from these communities feel like they are alone and that they have no support. By travelling to places across the world to perform and provide these communities with halal entertainment, they realise that Islam is not simply what they see and read about in the media. The Muslim community is one and it is in no way about hatred.
Are you surprised that you perform more concerts overseas than in the Arab world?
Not really, because the communities in places such as Europe, Australia and the Far East, for example, are hungry for Islam, the Arabic language and nasheed. In this region, I guess we take it for granted. Sometimes when we are blessed with something, we don't appreciate it. You only know the value of something when you miss it.
You are also about to release your long-awaited debut novel ‘Dragon Boy’. How is the process of publishing the book going?
I am very excited about that because the book will launch next year. You know, I might cry telling you how I feel about this book because for eight years I have been trying to get it published. The hardest part was to try to find proper agencies that will represent me and take it to the publishing world. I am glad that I finally found a great team.
Where and when will you launch ‘Dragon Boy’?
We will have four launches in different cities in the UK and one launch in Dubai early next year, as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. For these events, I am thinking of performing some of my songs as well as signing the book.