Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Ad: Sami Yusuf Press Conference

Hey hey hey! Ad here, back with another post! I simply MUST share the events that occurred today with all of you. First and foremost, I must say how grateful I am for everything that has happened to me. I feel truly blessed! Ok let's begin! Today (10th July 2012) there was a press conference for Sami Yusuf on his upcoming Salaam concert. I mentioned in my previous entry that the Salaam concert will be at Stadium Malawati this Saturday, 14th July 2012. My boyfriend, Tanvir, and I are extremely excited for the show. Last night, we met for dinner and I was telling him that brother Sami was already on his way here with his team. I was telling him that I initially wanted to go to the airport and meet Sami there but had to scratch those plans because he and his team were coming here by bus from Singapore, as you can see from Sami's tweet:

So since we were on twitter, we wanted to look for any news on the concert held in Singapore. While scrolling through twitter, we somehow luckily stumbled upon a tweet which mentioned that there was going to be a press conference for Sami Yusuf on 10th July. I nearly choked reading the tweet. We got all excited again and Tanvir said "let's go, we have to find a gift". Unfortunately it was close to 9pm then, so we were pressed for time (most shopping centres and shops close at 10pm here). Me being my usual self, I started panicking lol. I just couldn't stop talking. I kept saying "OMG what are we gonna do? what are we going to get him? it's almost 9! Which shops are open? where's the nearest shopping mall?Do we have time to go there?What if by the time we reach there it's too late?We still have to figure out what to get! and OMG there's so much to do tonight! Ok ok what do we need? I need to charge the camera, charge the video camera, get the GPS, WRITE A LETTER!!!" and so on and so forth haha.

Tanvir kept telling me to stop panicking and just move hahaha. Well I did move, but I can't remember if I stopped talking. So we quickly got into the car and started driving around, at first, without having a destination point. We both sat in silence for a while, thinking what gift would be appropriate and where was the nearest place to get it from. Fortunately my brain was on my side (thank you brain!) and I asked Tanvir, "how about we get him a book?" Thank God he agreed it was a good idea. The best part was that the nearest bookstore wasn't far at all! :) When we got to the book store, we took a while to decide what to get brother Sami, but eventually agreed on a book that was more for light reading so that he could read it while he's on the road.

When I finally got home soon after that, I started preparing all the stuff that I would need for the press conference; cameras, water, GPS, the gift, and most importantly, the letter. Tanvir and I discussed what to say and I wrote everything down. I did my best despite being interrupted millions of times. I hate being interrupted because I lose my train of thoughts and then the writing just doesn't come out right somehow! I hope brother Sami likes the letter :D

Anyywayyy, this morning I woke up and was ecstatic! We arrived early at the Grand Dorsett Hotel despite travelling in the midst of the rush hour traffic, alhamdulillah :) But of course, what's a day without problems right? When we got to the hotel, there was absolutely no parking! No parking at all three of the hotel parking lots! Crazy right? So we had to go round and round to find parking. We decided to try parking across the road and after some time we found a safe place to park. Haha, funny how parking is always a problem here huh? Then we walked into the hotel and checked the TV screen displaying the current events held at the hotel. To our delight, it said "PRESS CONFERENCE SAMI YUSUF 1100-1400 - PIANO LOUNGE". We felt relieved that we came all the way and the press conference was actually there, although we were a couple of hours early for it. We went to the reception to ask where the piano lounge was, and the lady was like "uhh..it's there" with a confused smile and she pointed to the place that we were standing at to look at the TV. I felt rather embarrassed! We were so excited that we missed the big sign at the end of the piano lounge that said:
10 JULY 2012"
The Piano Lounge

To be fair, the banners and posters had not been set up yet when we first got there! We were super nervous because: 1. again, this was an event for the media and there seemed to be an attendance list
2. what if we couldn't be part of/watch the press conference 
3. the people setting up the press conference kept looking at us
4. what if we couldn't meet brother Sami?!
It didn't help that on twitter it said the press conference was supposed to start at 10.30 and at the hotel it was officially supposed to start at 11. We kept checking our watches nervously, but soon we just stopped looking because we knew it would start super late!

We didn't dare go up to the organisers because we definitely were not part of the media and also we wanted to respect the event and not cause any problems for anyone. Our plan at that time was to look out for brother Sami and try to approach him before the press conference started so that he would (hopefully) be able to spare us a few minutes after the event so that we could meet him and hand him his gift and letter. That of course meant that we had to keep close watch of the lobby area. Every shadow I saw would make my heart beat a little faster, knowing that it could be Sami Yusuf!

But yeah, since it was delayed, we decided to kill time. Here's what we did: 
Before 11, we decided to check the letter again and make sure that our cameras were working.
Tanvir double-checking the letter
 Then as it was getting closer to noon, we decided to take random photos.

The Lobby
 Then, while waiting for brother Sami to show up (not sure what time anymore, maybe around 11.30 or so), we spotted some members of Sami Yusuf's team. I spotted two of them and said to Tanvir "Look! they're part of Sami Yusuf's team! He must be coming soon!" Unfortunately, that was not true lol! I checked one of Sami's previous tweets to make sure that they were indeed part of Sami's team. Then I said "Why don't we go and talk to them?" Tanvir at first refused because he didn't want them to feel as if we were invading their privacy, but I kept saying that "No way, I don't think they'll mind! I mean wouldn't you feel appreciated that people recognise you for the work that you do?" So Tanvir decided there was no harm in doing so; we saw Jon walking our way and as he came closer we said hi. I said "You're Jon right? Part of Sami's team?" He gave us a really warm smile and said, "Yes, that's right" and then we introduced ourselves and started talking to him. He asked us what time was the press conference supposed to start. I said "We don't really know. I mean it's written there at 11, but well look at the time now". He laughed and said, "so one o'clock then" hahaha. Then a few of the other team members walked over and they introduced themselves. One of them was Hamid, and the other was Sven.

Tanvir asked what their plan was for the day. They said they wanted to head to the city centre to have a look around. We talked about traffic (as usual) and a few other stuff, before Tanvir said "Brother Sami Yusuf is finally here" and I turned to look. There he was, walking behind the OEP people (concert organisers), with his head down, looking at his phone. We politely excused ourselves and Jon said "go go it's time for you to snap those photos" lol. He was sooo nice! Then as brother Sami got closer, Tanvir said salam and of course, he answered. He looked up from his phone and flashed a big smile when he saw Tanvir. Sami remembered him! Asked Tanvir how he was, and then he saw me and flashed another big smile and said "and how are you? so good to see you again! how did you know I was here?" I said "Alhamdulillah I'm fine and it's wonderful to see you again." Then he said "well I'm sorry I can't really talk now, I have a press conference. Are you coming in?" I said, "well, I actually do not know if we can. Are we allowed to?" He said he didn't know. Then we said "Perhaps after the press conference we'll talk?" He smiled and said "inshallah" before he left. Then one of the kind ladies that was setting up the press conference came to us and said, "Do you want to join the press conference? Where are you guys from?(as in, which media group)" I smiled and said, "We'd love to. Actually we're his supporters. We heard he would be here" Then she said, "Oh, you should've told us who you were and you could've just signed in and joined us. But anyway, come in, sit wherever you want". She was sooo nice! Unfortunately, we never got her name, but we're really grateful to her! 
We couldn't find empty seats so we just stood at the front (most people were there anyway), and took photos, watched and listened as the event unfolded.

First shot of Sami Yusuf at the Press Conference
 The first question from the press was "Where do you get inspiration to write your songs?" To which, Sami basically answered that his biggest influence is his faith. When he first ventured into the music industry and released Al Mu'allim, he had no idea of the genre known as 'nasheed'. He simply wanted to sing from his heart, and as evidenced in his songs, his faith is what moves him. He also mentioned that the concept of 'Salaam' is not restricted to Islam; rather, it is linked to every major religion and it revolves around the fundamentals and goodness that exist in religions.

Next, "do you have any special message for the youth?" The person asking the question continued to say that the youth nowadays are losing touch with their religion, so as Sami sings spiritual songs, what is his message to the youth? In a nutshell, Sami stated that it's very dangerous to lose sight of what is important. At the moment, the predominant culture is the Western culture, so the youth generally try to mimic that culture - they follow both the good and bad. Sami's message is to be proud of our own culture and to not simply toss away our own culture's values just to be closer to the predominant culture.

Then, someone asked what Sami's thoughts are about the Malaysian nasheed industry and if he will consider collaborating with local artistes in the future. He said that the local nasheed industry is good but he himself does not consider his music to be nasheed simply because he feels that his songs are not worthy to be nasheed. He mentioned that Raihan and Rabbani's songs are much closer to nasheeds than his songs are. However, he would love to collaborate with local artistes in the future.

The next question was regarding Sami being in the Top 500 Most Influential Muslims list. I wasn't sure what her question was, but I suppose it was something like what his thoughts are about being on that list. Sami simply answered that he actually does not know much about it; rather, he has a team who keeps track of things like this. He said he prefers to "stay close to the ground" and remain a simple person.

 The question after that came from yours truly. I actually knew the answer for the first part of my question (because brother Sami has talked about it in the forum at his website, but I think that it is important for everyone present to know about it. I asked, "Would you like to share with us how your upcoming album Salaam will be, and also can you tell us when it will be released in the market?" Sami answered, "It will be released sometime in the summer, hopefully not too long from now. Salaam has the same spirit of my previous albums Al Mu'allim, My Ummah and Wherever You Are. It aims to inshaAllah bring people closer together and God willing, to increase that awareness of the sacred. It is being released by Arteffects International in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei and we're very excited"
The last question was basically about Sami's roots. The person said, "Some of us are confused as to your origins. Some say you're Persian, or Azeri or British. What are you?" Sami laughed and said, "I'm all of those. All that you mentioned are correct, but I suppose I'll say that I'm nationally British, culturally Persian, and ethnically Azeri". LOL, best answer ever! The press conference ended with Sami saying he's looking forward to the concert and hope to see as many of us there :)

Sami looking very cheerful at the piano

After that, the photographers wanted to take photos of Sami posing with the piano/playing the piano, and then refreshments were served and soon after he went on with his one-on-one interviews with the rest of the media. During this time, we stepped out of the piano lounge and sat nearby at the lobby. We wanted to give him time to let him finish everything that he had to do before meeting him. It took a while but fortunately, we had company this time! :) We were sitting doing nothing, when we saw two other members of Sami's team called Jean (from Egypt) and Michael (from Germany). We introduced ourselves and had a chat. We asked if they had been here before, asked what they thought of Malaysia and about their plans for the next few days. They said that they both have been here before, but a while back. They also said that they have the next two days off to do whatever they want because they are only allowed in the concert venue on Friday. They asked about islands and I recommended Tioman and Redang. Those two islands are amazing. Breath-takingly beautiful! We were having this conversation outside the hotel lobby, so we assumed they were going out to see KL. We asked what they were waiting for, and they said that they want to meet Sami before they go out. After a while, we excused ourselves and went back inside. We took a seat at the same place, near the piano lounge. Tanvir went to get some cold drinks for us and while we were having a drink, we spotted Jean and Michael with coffee, looking for a place to sit. Tanvir asked them to join us and they did. After that we continued talking about Malaysia, gave them tips about how to get around the city and where's the best places for this and that. Before long, the other team members joined us too. Jon, Peter (and his wife I think), Sven and another guy (sorry! we didn't get to introduce ourselves to him, so we didn't get his name!). We had a lovely, long conversation. It was really fun; they were all sooo nice and easy to talk to! 

From left: Michael, Mr Something (still feel bad we didn't get his name!), Jean and Sven

From right: Jon, Peter and I assume his wife

Then after a while, I saw Sami leaving the piano lounge (well, I thought he was leaving, but actually he was just being photographed at the front of the lounge), and I asked Jon if Sami was coming here after he's done. Jon said "I don't know. We might have to go and see him" and laughed. So asked, "is it ok if we excuse ourselves and go see him?" He said, "Sure go ahead. I'm going to head to my room for a bit." We said our "see yous" and Tanvir and I went closer to Sami Yusuf. We waited politely for the people to finish talking to him, taking photos with him and asking for autographs. (Btw, I was extremely happy to see a few people bringing their Wherever You Are albums with them!) Then as he was posing for a group photo, he saw us and asked how we were doing. After that photo was taken, we finally got a chance to talk to him. He came to us and said to Tanvir, "Tanvir right?" and Tanvir nodded happily, then Sami asked "How was the press conference? Did you enjoy it?" Tanvir said "Yes we did, but there were its ups and downs". Then as we were talking, suddenly something caught Sami's eye, a wide smile formed on his face and he said, "ah this is my friend, Jean" and we turned to follow his gaze. I said, "oh yes, we know. We met" Tanvir said, "We were having coffee with him and your team while waiting for you". When Jean was near, they kissed each others' cheeks and hugged each other, speaking in Egyptian Arabic (I assume). "But yeah, every thing has its ups and downs -" Sami continued, then Jean said, "These two have been waiting for you since morning". Sami was apologetic about us having to wait so long, immediately ushered us to sit and said "come let's have a seat" and we proceeded to sit at the same place we had coffee with the team. 

As we sat down, he said "As I was saying, we really cannot control the results". I was a little lost, so I asked, "Results? By that, what do you mean? What sort of results?" He answered, "Anything! Like the press conference, the concert, anything". Tanvir and I nodded in agreement, then Sami said, "Thank you so much for coming here. I really appreciate your support". We said, "No problem, we really wanted to meet you again". Then I said, "We actually didn't know you'd be here until last night, we saw it on twitter". And he said, "Twitter? Wow" Tanvir then proceeded to explain how we found out about the press conference. Sami then asked, "are you comfortable sitting here, or do you want to go somewhere else?" We said, "no no no, it's fine. We're ok here". See how nice and thoughtful he is! He was so considerate of our feelings! Tanvir asked him "What are you planning to do here in the next few days? You came from Singapore quite early. Do you have anything planned?" Sami said, "Well I'm still working on the Salaam album. There's still work to be done there, so I'll mostly be working on that" I said, "Oh yes, I remember, I saw that photo you tweeted of your macbook pro" He gave a little laugh and then brought his voice down to a whisper and said, "It is one of our friends' birthday today so we are going to celebrate later." Then he continued in his usual tone and said "but yeah, other than that, I'll be working on the album". After that we gave him his gift and he was so so happy. It feels so good knowing that a small thing like us turning up and giving him a gift could make him so happy. We said "We have something for you, as a token of our appreciation to you." He said, "Thank you so much, God bless you". And we continued to say how much he inspires us, how much we respect him, how much we love his music, how much his music helps us and so on. He kept saying God bless you, over and over :) Then he was about to open the letter and asked, "May I?" I said, "The letter is rather long". Tanvir added, "Yeah it's probably better if you read that later, but feel free to unwrap your gift". He unwrapped it excitedly, read the book title and flipped through it while saying thank you. 
Finally, a photo of us with Sami
Then he said to us, "I have something I want to ask you". We nodded and said, "Sure, ask us anything". Jean interrupted and said, "I know what you are going to ask". Sami said to him, "You know what I'm going to ask? What am I going to ask?" with a smile on his face. Then Jean said, "You are going to ask them how is the marketing for the concert here and is it being done well". Sami broke into a laugh and said, "How did you know that? It's like every time I want to ask a question, you already know what I'm going to ask". After that he looked at the both of us and repeated the question that Jean said he would ask "Honestly, how is the marketing being done here? Do you think they've done a good job". We basically said, "To be honest, it wasn't good enough. We don't think there was enough advertising and awareness made for the concert. We don't see the banners, flyers, posters anywhere, except for a few restaurants. We don't see advertisements on tv or in newspapers. We knew about the concert because we are your loyal supporters and we tend to keep ourselves updated about you. Honestly without social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, we probably wouldn't know much about the concert." Then he said that, "We didn't know about it. We thought they were professionals and would do their jobs". I said, "Unfortunately what they've done wasn't enough. News about your concert should be everywhere. We had Jason Mraz here some weeks ago and his advertisements were everywhere. Why shouldn't you be given the same treatment?" We talked about this a little more and then moved on to happier topics. He said, "Whatever it is, we're here to have fun, so at the very least we can make sure that it'll be a fun concert inshallah". I said, "there's an upside to this whole thing though. If really the marketing was done poorly, then we know that the people who will be coming this Saturday are indeed your loyal supporters". He smiled then he asked, "You are coming this Saturday right?" We said "yes, of course". I added, "Tanvir actually won a pair of the VIP tickets from the competition". Sami was very happy hearing this news and congratulated Tanvir. Then Tanvir said, "She'll (me) be coming with her family though on that night". Then Sami said, "Oh that's great! Where are your seats?" Then I said, "It's Row F I think, from the stage, I'll be on your left" Sami said, "Good I'll look out for you". OMG how awesome is that?! He really treats us like we're all good friends and we really appreciate that! Love that about him! 

Then someone said to Sami that they needed to go soon so we asked if it's ok to get a group photo. He said, "sure, no problem" and stood up. The moment he stood up, he shook Peter's hand (and gave him a hug too I think) and said something in a European language that I did not recognise, then said, "Happy Birthday my friend". We all wished him Happy Birthday and started singing the Happy Birthday song. How awesome was that? When we were done singing the song, Sami asked Peter, "How old are you now Peter? 53?" And Peter frowned lol and muttered something. Then Sami continued, "You don't look 53! You look 52!" HAHAHA. We couldn't stop laughing. Then everyone stood up for a group photo. Sami then said, "Come on Jon, you have to be in the photo. A photo isn't a photo without you". They were all so cute with each other! Love how close they all are! Then Jon joined in the photo and Sami said, "He's my brother. His mother says we're like brothers, that we look alike". I looked at Sami then to Jon and back again to Sami then said, "Ah I think I see the resemblance". Sami said, "It's just that his accent is from the North and mine the South, or whatever it is with mix of Persian and Azeri" We also laughed at this, which resulted in the following photo:

They're such fun people! Would love to hangout with them more!
 Then as we were standing, we talked some more. Sami asked us what we're doing now, what did we study. I said "Well we wrote a lot about it in the letter, but basically we study Accounting." He asked, "Both of you?" And we both said, "yes, we study at the same university". Then, he asked, "what do you want to do now?" I said, "I actually have no idea what I want to do. There are a lot of options but I'm kind of lost at the moment". Then he said, "Don't worry. If it makes you feel better, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I just followed my heart and let it take its course". Then he said, "There's so much pressure on you guys nowadays!" Tanvir and I agreed immediately hahahha. We talked a little more about it then he said, "Don't worry, you guys are still young. Really young, right?" And we nodded. He said, "I feel really old!" Peter was standing next to him and he gave Sami a look then they both laughed. Then unfortunately it was time for them all to leave. Sami said, "It was really a pleasure to meet you both". We said, "It was lovely seeing you again. Thank you so much for your time". He said, "Not at all. See you at the concert inshallah". We said, "Inshallah, see you" and said our farewells to the rest of the team.

Then later in the day, I tweeted Sami saying:
He replied saying:

Alhamdulillah. I'm so thankful for this day. We were so worried that we couldn't meet him, but in the end, we got much more than that. We were invited to attend the press conference, we made friends with Sami and the team, and we had a good long conversation with him :) We really feel so so grateful for this day. We are even more excited now for the concert this Saturday! Come on people, GET YOUR TICKETS! Go to http://airasiaredtix.com/Events/SamiYusuf/ to get your tickets today! Listen to his music. Listen to his songs. Let him inspire you with Spiritique music.

So yeah, that was the end of our adventure for today. How did you all like it? Do share with me your thoughts in the comments! We said to each other last night "Tomorrow, we have a mission, which is to meet Sami Yusuf". Today, alhamdulillah, we can joyfully say "Mission accomplished".

Take care everyone,

For more photos, click here :)

1 comment:

  1. would love to meet his wife and kids someday lol. :D


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