January 21, 2015. Azeem Maherali for Ismailimail: An Ismaili civil society collaboration with Prof. Ali Asani brought Salim & Sulaiman to Harvard University to reflect on the brothers life and music careers.
The Prince Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program and the South Asia Institute present a video recording of the October 2, 2015 event.
Prof. Ali Asani, Director of the Islamic Studies Program, introduced the brothers and added that he viewed Salim and Sulaiman as knowledge creators.
The brothers talked about their childhood growing up in a home where music surrounded them – they idolized their father who was not only a music composer but also a manufacture of musical instruments. Not having any toys except musical instruments for toys, music has always been part of their life … part of their DNA.
Salim stressed that “music is about people,” and then he continued to elaborate on how “you can write a piece alone and using today’s technology create music alone and play it for friends and family.” Getting excited and smiling, he continued “but when you make music with people, it changes and you have different hearts and minds meet, and it brings together a different energy. That is why this whole interaction with people is so important. Right from our early years we experienced that with our father’s orchestra – what we called Jamat Khana orchestra. There was so much interaction with human beings and that is what kept the community together and music alive. Today we use that as our inspiration and make music with that energy.”
Sulaiman provided another important perspective from their childhood – a facet of growing up in the Ismaili community and going to Jamat Khana. He recollected proudly, “I remember between prayers in Jamat Khana we recited Ginans – devotional hymns … so devotional music came to us from that time, when we were kids. When we grew up, we had these devotional elements within us and so we wrote Shukran lillah, Bismillah and Ali Mowla. The one thing we realized was that devotional music has a lot of power and songs with devotional qualities become timeless. Songs like Shukran lillah, Bismillah and Ali Mowla are all inspired by our religious upbringing, from going to pray and hearing the ginans. So for us that is how our journey to making music started.”
Incidentally, Salim and Sulaiman have performed in the presence of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan twice and received encouragement for their work.
Watch the video to find out the symbolism (light, tree of life, white) and wordings (shahada, prayer call, etc.) that inspired their song Allahu Akbar.
Find out how the brothers emoted following the Peshawar Massacre to come up with their heart wrenching song Khalipan.
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