Hi and Salaam dear readers!
If you've been following the blog or even me on twitter, you'll know just how hectic last week has been for me! To my twitter followers, sorry if my tweets have been annoying and I kept complaining lol. Honestly had not been this tired in a really, really long time! But of course, everything was totally worth and I would not change a single thing :)
Anyway, as you know, Sami Yusuf was recently here in Malaysia for the launch of his much-anticipated fourth studio album, Salaam. The album launch was organised by Arteffects International, a company that was founded by Hafiz Hamidun. His entire stay here was managed by Arteffects, and I have to say Hafiz Hamidun and everyone at Arteffects did a wonderful job! Everything went smoothly, and our brother Sami Yusuf seemed very happy during his stay here. Definitely was well taken care of by Arteffects :) So, kudos to the team!
He arrived here late at night on the 1st of November and stayed for 3 days. His flight back home was on the 4th of November at 9.50am, so he probably left the hotel at around 7am. It was a short stay and it would've been amazing if he could stay longer but he still has to launch the album in the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region, and also the international launch at the RIS Convention soon after that, so these are busy times for our brother and his team! Anyway, before I proceed, just a quick warning: this will be a long post! hahaha I know some of you have read my posts before so you know exactly what to expect, but for new readers, brace yourselves!
Ok, so me being me, I was literally counting down the days to the Sami Yusuf album launch and his arrival here in Malaysia. I mean like every single day, no matter how busy I was, I had to say at least once "Omg, 10 more days!" or "Can you believe Sami Yusuf is coming back here soon?" or "*in a state of daydream* we will be watching Sami Yusuf sing LIVE" hahaha and other stuff like that. I mean even subconsciously I would be talking about him! This was all fine if I were perhaps talking to myself, but unfortunately for Tanvir, he was the one who had to listen to me say all this over and over again! By the way, I am not 'obsessed' with him; it's just that he is someone who I respect a lot and inspires me, so you can't blame me for being excited! Anyway, I follow Arteffects on twitter, and also @SYMalaysia and thankfully, both accounts have been updating us followers about Sami Yusuf coming to Malaysia. In fact, Arteffects kept the entire SY Family updated about Sami's whereabouts throughout his stay here. Check out their twitter for pictures and other updates :) On 25th October, I was scrolling my twitter timeline and spotted this:
It loosely translates to "Let's wait for @SamiYusuf at KLIA on 1st November!" I instantly had this wide grin on my face. It was all happening. I had a lot on my plate, what with the Lung Foundation of Malaysia charity bazaar coming up, but how often does our brother Sami come down to Malaysia right? I had to alter my plans according to his schedule, no matter what! After I saw this tweet, I immediately replied @SYMalaysia asking what time he was expected to arrive. They said:
I was excited at first, and then my heart dropped. "9.30pm??" I said to myself. 1st November was a Thursday, I knew Tanvir would be working, even at night. It seemed impossible to welcome him at the airport. If I were to go there, I'd have to leave around 8pm as it takes 45min-1hour to get there. Then what if the flight was delayed? What time then would he arrive? Also, how long would it take for him to get through customs and immigration and all those other boring airport stuff? God knows what time I would reach home after all that. It just didn't seem like a good idea then. The next day, I casually updated Tanvir about the news on brother Sami, like when he was scheduled to arrive at the airport and so on, and we both agreed that we could not be there to welcome him. I was sad, because I thought a warm welcome would really make his day (or well, night), but I shrugged off any thoughts that came to mind and told myself "maybe next time". Then on the 30th (can't remember what I was doing, probably something for the charity bazaar), a thought came to my mind. "Maybe I should go with Lina and Nina..." hahaha. Then I whatsapped Tanvir and said, "I think I should go to the airport with Lina and Nina if they're free". He said, "hmm ok". Haha he didn't seem too keen about that! So I asked Lina and Nina (I know right, our names are all the same. Adlina, Lina, Nina. Can you imagine how confusing it is when we're all out together?) whether they were free and wanted to come along and just my luck, they both said "YES!" hahaha. The gears in my brain immediately started moving at full speed as I thought about what else I would have to do for this welcome. I decided at the very least, I had to make a poster that says "SAMI YUSUF WELCOME BACK TO MALAYSIA". "What else?" I thought to myself. I decided a Welcome To Malaysia card would be the perfect gift for him.
I constructed a to-do list because I realised that there was a lot more that had to be done for the bazaar itself and since Sami Yusuf was coming two days before the album launch, I had much less time to do everything. It was a long list and believe me, it was the beginning of my everyday-sleep-at-4am journey. So the next day, on the 31st, I went out to see Tanvir for a while and he said "So you're going to the airport?" I broke into a biiiiig smile and said "yesssss". He replied, "I want to go! But I've work". I then asked "is there any way you can get out of work? Maybe move your break time to right at the end?" We kept on discussing and at the end of our discussion, we were both smiling. He said, "InshaAllah we will go to the airport together"
On the 1st of November, I had to buy the several things that we needed to make wraps for the bazaar. I went with Lina to a hypermarket and did the shopping there. We were a little slow because 1) the place had been renovated, 2) the prices vary for the items on the list, everything was way higher than the budgeted prices and 3) I had not had my lunch yet and it was at least 5pm. Niiiiice right? Ok so when we were shopping, Tanvir texted, telling me to meet him at his workplace to pick up some of the other ingredients for the bazaar (he had ordered some stuff directly from the suppliers so we got the items for lower prices yay!) and I told him to wait because I had not had my lunch yet and I wanted to eat. The biggest problem we faced was that one of our main ingredients (chicken meatballs) was not available. I mean there were other brands which were way more expensive, but the brand that we normally use and were looking for was unavailable. Things were not looking good. Then somehow before we know it, it was 7pm. Time sure moves quickly when we're rushing! There was a bit of a drama and misunderstanding which led to silly arguments that I honestly do not care to explain here. Haaaanyway, then I picked Nina up and we went back to my place to pray Maghrib and then we took a quick stop to another supermarket in the hopes of finding those chicken balls and Alhamdulillah, they were there! Phew, that was one less thing to worry about! So by 8pm we arrived at Tanvir's workplace and waited for him. We finally left for the airport at around 8.30pm.
|Ready with our gear! I was checking twitter for updates of course, to see if there he has landed|
Ok I just realised that I'm including waaaay too many details so I'm going to try and not do that so much from now on! Moving on, Tanvir took the wheel and drove us all to the airport. We were all extremely excited (duhhhh! of course!) and obviously we played all of Sami Yusuf's songs on the radio and we sang along (or well, we tried to. let's just say it's better that no one else heard us haha). During our commute, my darlings Lina and Nina fell asleep in the backseat and they looked sooo adorable! It was almost 9.30 by the time we arrived at the airport. Stupidly, (and because we were rushing - this always happens when we're rushing) we completely missed the car park entrance and went straight for the arrival drop off/pick up point. Then we had to make one big round to enter the car park, park the car and rush to the international arrival hall at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). We made a pit stop at one of the shops near the place we parked because Tanvir hadn't had a meal since...morning (yikes!). We got some snacks and drinks, and then quickly proceeded to the arrival hall. We arrived at the arrival hall feeling excited, full of adrenaline and we were all smiles. It was around 9.50pm by the time we got there. We unfolded the poster, got our camera and video camera ready and leaned against the railing of the arrival hall. And so we waited, and waited, and waited. Lina and Nina got hungry and decided to buy hot corn in a cup. It was GOOD! haha
|Lina happy with her corn in a cup|
Time was moving extremely slowly. I refused to sit down. I just couldn't bear the thought of missing him after coming all the way. So we just stood there, talked, and waited. Lina asked "What are you doing to do when you see him?" and I said, "I have absolutely no idea". But ok, here was the plan. He would walk through the arrival hall doors, which was a bit of a distance from where we were standing. We would be able to see him from afar, and he would be able to see us with our poster. We would then switch on the video camera and record the entire moment. We may or may not wave like crazy people, and we would figure out what to say to him while he walked toward us. That was the initial plan. Let me just say that things did not go according to plan AT ALL.
|Nina and Lina with the poster|
I have to say, quite a few people stared at our poster, but said nothing. Most people just smiled. But one guy walked in front of us, glanced at our poster and without stopping he chuckled and said, "Sami Yusuf" and left. Just like that. Me and Tanvir were puzzled. "What was that all about?" we asked each other. Then a while later the same guy came back. He stood next to us this time and he asked, "You're waiting for Sami Yusuf?" We said, "yes, he's here right?" And he said, "yeah, still waiting to clear him" I asked "where is he exactly?", and he said, "in the VIP lounge with Hafiz" We both breathed a sigh of relief. Then he said, "We're arranging his transport back to the hotel" and I asked, "He's staying the the Royale Bintang right?" He smiled and said yes. We talked for a while longer and I asked him for his name. "Nasir" he said. Tanvir and I proceeded to introduce ourselves and then Lina and Nina came over too. Then Nasir mumbled something to us and left, which left us asking "Where'd he go?" So we stood there, with renewed excitement and hope. Soon it was 11.30. Lina had wandered off somewhere and Nina was just staring blankly into space, holding the camera. We were all still leaning against the railing, our eyes glued to the doors of the arrival hall.
Then, out of nowhere, we heard a voice saying, in Malay, "Sami Yusuf dekat belakang la" which means Sami Yusuf is behind you. Ok honestly when I heard that, I thought the guy was joking, whoever it was. I thought it was someone who had read our poster and decided to mess with us. So we all turned around and my God, didn't we get the shock of our lives. Standing in front of us, was this tall, fair man in a beige/khaki-coloured jacket and a pair of blue jeans. He wasn't alone. There were at least four other people there. It took a long time for anything to register into my brain. The man gave a little wave, and he had a big smile on his face. "I found you," he said. "I surprised you this time". And all we did....was stare. Nobody. said. a word. There he was, looking a little tired from the long flight, Sami Yusuf. Standing merely a few feet from us. Thank God Tanvir broke the silence, extended his hand and said "Assalamualaikum brother, how are you?"
|About to hand him his card, as he was telling us how organised Hafiz Hamidun is haha! |
"This guy is really organised" said brother Sami
"Waalaikum salam, I'm very good! How are you?" Sami replied cheerfully. I was still in shock. Honestly, I was lost for words. And my brain kept thinking, "Where on earth is Lina?!" We had waited for so long and for her to miss him - well I didn't even want to think about that! Haha thankfully, she joined us soon after that. We said we were fine, and that we were very happy to meet him and said to him welcome back to Malaysia, and told him that it was nice to have him back here. Then, I introduced Lina and Nina to him. They were both giggling like school girls! lol! I suppose that's better than looking wide-eyed and lost (the look that I was sporting!). Sami then said, "You know what? The moment I saw the two of you (Tanvir & I), I instantly knew who you were!" And I said, "That's amazing. Thank you haha it's great that you recognise us!". We talked for a while, and Sami asked, "You'll be coming on Saturday right?" and we said, "Of course, inshaAllah we will." Tanvir then asked, "What have you got planned during your stay?" To which he answered, "We've got a very busy schedule". Brother Hafiz said, "Tomorrow Sami will be at.." and I finished the sentence for him "KL central right?" He smiled and said, "yes" and I continued, "MHI in the morning, then later at night IKIM at 10pm". "Yessss, you know the schedule well" said Hafiz. I laughed and said, "Yes, thanks to twitter". So then I handed brother Sami the card but only after Tanvir reminded me to (I still couldn't snap out of this dream-like state). When I handed it to him, Sami was sooo happy. He kept saying, "Thank you". He held the card in his hands, he opened it, glanced inside and saw the rather long message, then closed it back and said "Thank you so much for doing this for me". Tanvir then said "This is actually the first of many surprises. There are more to come" and he said, "MashaAllah, thank you". He couldn't stay long, so Nina said, "Let's take some photos". And so we did!
|So sad this was rather blur!|
|But this turned out great!|
Then we asked him to sign our poster, and he gladly obliged. Ok I'm embarrassed to say this, but honestly throughout the entire time we were talking, I only managed to say one thing, which was "It's so nice that you surprised us. I mean we were the ones who wanted to surprise you and it turns out you surprised us hahaha". And I said it over and over again, in many different ways lol. I simply couldn't pull myself together! Let's just say that the surprise was nothing short of mind blowing!
|Sami Yusuf signing our poster! You can see Hafiz in the background snapping photos lol|
|As he was signing he said, "I'm sorry I'm ruining your design". And of course we said, "no no you're not" haha|
|Tanvir, Me & Sami with the autographed poster|
|"Oh, I want to show this" said Sami and he held the card in front of him :)|
|Our last photo of the night :) Love this!|
The next day, on the 2nd of November, which was a Friday, Sami made an appearance on MHI at around 8ish in the morning. It was a short and sweet interview. I managed to record and watch it yay! Initially I thought that I couldn't because Tanvir and I were planning to start cooking whatever we could for the bazaar. We were afraid we would not have enough time on Saturday. But fortunately, we decided to watch MHI before going into the kitchen and getting on with the cooking. It was well worth it! The interview was lovely :) You can watch the interview here:
Then we did the whole chop a whole basket of onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and chicken thing. That took a pretty long time. I mean hey, neither of us had ever cooked for 100 people. It was rather daunting and quite stressful but we managed to work through it. We cooked what we could. The most important thing at that time was for Tanvir to complete his dishes because I certainly did not have time to learn and recreate his recipes! Somehow Alhamdulillah we managed to do it. We didn't like that we had to prepare everything this early but we had no choice. We always believe that freshly-prepared food tastes a million times better! But alas, time wasn't on our side! Alhamdulillah we strictly followed science in order to ensure that the food stayed in tip top condition and everything worked out in the end :) I didn't have time to cook my recipe but it was still fine because I could even cook in the middle of the night for all I care lol.
Then, it was time for Friday prayer. We tried to guess which mosque brother Sami would go to, but we guessed wrong haha. We completely missed his tweet stating that he was at the Wilayah mosque :) Here's a photo he took on his WhoSay. Tanvir had to go to work after prayer, so we rushed to his work place after he was done. Out of nowhere, rain started pouring and it got heavy very quickly. Soon enough, we could barely see the road when we were driving. And just as quickly as the rain had come, it went away. SubhanAllah, how amazing is that? The rain had not stopped completely, but the storm had passed. It actually continued to rain until night time. Monsoon season everyone :) So after that, I got back home, checked that I had surprise number two with me and made sure I had everything else I needed, then left for KL Central. Sami Yusuf was expected to make an appearance at the Islamic Book Expo at around 4.30pm. When I got there, I felt a little out of place to say the least. Most chairs had been taken and I was there a little early. I took a quick look around the book expo. I was rather disappointed that everything was in Malay. It was supposed to be an international book expo, but I suppose some of the books were by international writers but they were probably translated into Malay. Of course I have no issue with books written in Malay, but I like reading materials from scholars from all over the world so I was just disappointed about the lack of selection, that's all. Anyway, I went around snapping photos as usual and before long, he finally arrived.
Everyone was thrilled! If it seemed empty before, well all the gaps in the crowd was quickly filled. I decided to stand in the centre of the place, behind the chairs so that I could take better photos. When he sat down, I waved at him lol. I couldn't help it! And he smiled and waved back :)
|You see the guy with the mic holding the Salaam album? That's Nasir!|
Sami said a few words, but it was very brief. Then Nasir took over and said that "I think we should go straight to the signing of autographs because we don't have much time". So he ushered those who had already bought the album to queue up to get their autographs and told everyone else to go get the album if they wanted to meet Sami Yusuf personally and get their CD signed. Syafiq went to buy the album while I went closer to try and take more photos. While taking photos, I met Omar from the airport. He said, "Hii, you're from the airport last night right?" And I said, "yea yea, that's me. How are you?" he said, "I'm fine, I'm fine" and we talked for a while. It's always so much fun to make friends with the people I meet :) Alhamdulillah I've met quite a number of beautiful people through Sami Yusuf. Thank you so much brother :) As Omar was busy doing his job, I saw Nabila next to the stage so I went over and had a long conversation with her. She was lovely as always of course. I asked her if it was possible to get a few minutes of his time when he was done with all this, so that I could pass him a gift and she said, "It should be no problem, don't worry".
We talked about a lot of things. One of the things I remember asking her was, "So how are you adapting to the weather? It's crazy huh? One moment it's sunny, then suddenly there's a full on rain storm" and she laughed, "Yea, but I was inside during the rain. I would've loved to be outside. We don't get this in Dubai" and it made me realise how much I've been taking the rain for granted in Malaysia. I'm so blessed to be in a country where it rains every other day. There is a saying, not sure if it is a hadith or not, that duas (prayers) are more likely to be accepted when they are made when it is raining :) If I can find the source for this, I will put it up later. Then while we were talking, someone said, "Excusez moi." (Excuse me) And we both turned to look at the man. I remembered his face because I had just seen him get Sami's autograph a few minutes before and he had his photo taken. He said, "parlez-vous Français?" (Do you speak French?) I'm going to try my best to write the French part! And Nabila said, "No, I don't." He then said in English, "This singer, may I ask his country of origin?" And Nabila explained to him that Sami is British, was born in Tehran but grew up in the UK and is ethnically Azeri. I'm not sure what else they said, then I said to him, "Je parle un peu Français". (I speak a bit of French). And he was sooo happy when I said that. Of course when I say I speak a little bit of French I honestly mean just a little bit! Then he said, "ohh!! merci, merci" (Ohh! thank you thank you) then I said, "De rien" (It's nothing/no problem/a way to say you're welcome). Then I said in English, "So you're from France? Welcome to Malaysia" and he said, "Oui, merci" (Yes, thank you). Then I said, "it's very nice to meet you. Oh wait, I think I can say it in French." I paused to think for a while. Thank God at least it came back to me. Then I continued, "Enchanter de vous connaitre". And I think that was the last sentence in French that I said to him, but still, if it made his day, Alhamdulillah :) I said to him, I used to learn french when I was in high school. Then I think after a while I excused myself...I'm not sure but the conversation ended. Some time after that, his wife suddenly came up to me and said something in French, really, really fast. I stared blankly. Wow, I certainly did not catch even a single word. I shook my head and told her I didn't understand. Then with her hands, she was acting like she was holding a mic and then I understood what she was asking. "Is he going to sing?" I said "Oh no, not today, but tomorrow yes at Royale Bintang Hotel in Damansara". She nodded, smiled then went away.
|With the beautiful Nabila|
Then, I bumped into Omar again and he asked if I could help him interview some people for a video for the SYO (Sami Yusuf official) website. He said it'd be easier if I could interview people in Malay, then translate for him afterwards. I happily agreed. I mean all this was so exciting! Making friends, helping with the interviews for SYO - honestly it was so much fun! So what I had to do was ask the questions, mostly about Sami Yusuf and the new album, about favourite songs from the album and stuff like that, they answer and later on I'd help translate. After a while, Sami finished signing all autographs and he was presented a token of appreciation for gracing the expo with his presence. We were all asked to go on stage to take a group photo and we happily obliged haha. When we got on stage, Sami was like, "how are you? Everything going ok?" And I said, "yeah, everything's great". Then he said to me, "I have this feeling that this stage is going to break". I said, "I was just thinking the exact same thing!" And he said, "yeah, it's hollow. There's nothing inside!" I said, "Let's hope we can take this photo quickly and get off before it breaks" haha. Then after the group shot, he said "Are you alright?" I said to me, "I'm fine, I'm fine. If it's ok with you, before you leave may I have a few minutes of your time?" Then he called Nabila and whispered something to her then he turned to me and say, "Stay with Nabila" or something like that. Then as I went closer to Nabila she said, "Just follow me, there'll be some sort of hi-tea or something, when that's done you can talk to him" and I said, "Ok, thank you so much".
|Sami being presented a token of appreciation for being at the expo|
So I followed Nabila and Sami around, and eventually we found ourselves at Rasamas. Sami and the team were given refreshments while the media (Utusan & Harian Metro if I'm not mistaken) interviewed him. I just stood and waited, snapped some photos and occasionally talked to Nabila, Omar and Nasir. Nasir was saying "We're running late. It wasn't supposed to take this long. If there were more people there who knows that time we would finish. He's just very friendly and gives everyone his time and attention". I smiled and said, "He's like that. That's just how he is".
|Sami being given a book|
|What a lovely smile :) He's always smiling mashaAllah|
|Sami being interviewed|
|Signing autographs in between being interviewed. I was waiting for my turn to speak to him :)|
Everyone was sort of rushing to get Sami back to the hotel. I learnt that he had not eaten since breakfast (it was close to 6pm by then) and he had not had any rest at all. He couldn't sleep a wink the night before due to jet lag, and he had just been running from interview to interview, to Friday prayer, to KL Central...it had just been so hectic for him. He looked tired but he tried not to show it. He was as pleasant as always and never stopped smiling. It's such an honourable trait to have. I can't even begin to imagine how grumpy I would be if I hadn't slept or eaten and had a packed schedule. InshaAllah one day I can learn to follow his example, God willing :) Ok, so I sat down next to him and we didn't get to talk much because the interviewer was still there and still asking questions every now and then, but of course I was grateful that I still was given some time with him. I presented him my second surprise. When I said to him "I have something for you". He said, "oh no not another one! You've already given me a gift last night!" and I said, "haha well you can expect even more".
|I was trying to show him something on my phone lol|
There are a few of you from the SY family whom I've got to know and constantly talk to. I know you all sent him your salaams and love, and I was just so afraid that I'd forget someone, so I made a little card and included your names in them :) I gave this card on the 2nd of November, so if any of you told me to send your salaams to him after that, I'm sorry I couldn't include your name in the card! But I hope you all are happy that I've managed to pass your salaams in the form of a card to our brother :)
|Explaining to brother Sami that the SY family sent their Salaams|
|He was absolutely touched, believe me :) He really appreciated it.|
|Brother Sami ready to leave, with his gifts in his hand|
Then later that night at 10pm, I listened to IKIM.fm for Sami Yusuf's interview. I enjoyed the previous interview on IKIM so I was really looking forward to this one. You can head on to IKIM's website to see some photos and a short write-up (it is probably in Malay though!) but keep checking the website. I'm quite sure that eventually they will make the interview available for download or streaming.
Ok so finally, it was the 3rd of November, the day of the album launch!! That morning I woke up happy of course. The night before, I remembered to set my TV to record Nasi Lemak Kopi O. I was downstairs, cooking for the bazaar when Sami Yusuf appeared on tv and guess what? I heard my mom shouting from upstairs "Naaaaa!!! NAAAAAA!! SAMI YUSUFFFF!!! SAMI YUSUF IS ON TV!!!!!" HAHAHAHAH as stressed out as I was, I couldn't help but laugh when my mom did this. She's so awesome seriously :) I loveeee how excited she was! So I watched the interview together with my mom, then got ready to leave home. For some reason though, on that day traffic was terrible! Everywhere we went, there was some sort of traffic jam. It was crazy! And certainly testing our patience.
You can watch his appearance on Nasi Lemak Kopi O here:
You can watch his appearance on Nasi Lemak Kopi O here:
Tanvir and I arrived at the Curve at almost 1.30. We finished preparing our final surprise for brother Sami and then we had a quick breakfast (I know right, our eating times were completely haywire!) then we rushed to the hotel...we scrambled around looking for the ballroom (for some reason I forgot all about keeping the details of the album launch with me) we finally asked the receptionist (who was rather busy) where the album launch was and he was absolutely clueless. Then he asked, "Are you looking for Royale Bintang Damansara?" And we nodded and he said, "Ok well this is the Royale Bintang The Curve". Can you believe it? WE WERE AT THE WRONG HOTEL. So much drama! By then it was almost 2pm already! Thankfully the correct hotel was at the other end of the mall - much better than having to drive to a totally different location. Again, I scolded myself for not being well-prepared for this. For someone who had been looking forward to this day for a long time, I was pretty much unprepared! So we rushed to the real hotel and eventually, we made it!
|Outside the ballroom. People were waiting to get inside!|
After we registered and got our Salaam albums & posters, we both felt a lot more calm. Haha it was so stressful having to constantly rush here and there! What really helped us relax was that we could hear (although it was very subtle) Sami Yusuf singing for his sound check. Obviously we got even more thrilled after that!
Look at the beautifully stacked CDs! So many of them!
While waiting to go inside, we spoke to Syafiq. I introduced Tanvir to him and we talked. As usual, I found myself taking photos haha.
Before long, we were finally allowed to enter the ballroom. So so exciting! My heart was racing - it was really happening. I can be quite a pessimist. Ok perhaps that's not the right word, I'm a realist. I always tell myself that things can go wrong, that's just how life works. I just have to learn not to be too disappointed if anything were to go wrong. Therefore, when the doors opened and we were allowed to enter, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was really happening. I was about to have one of my dreams come true. Sami Yusuf was going to perform - and I would be there to enjoy the entire thing. Seriously though, I'm truly grateful for everything that has happened. I do realise how lucky I am and I hope that all of you from the SY family will get to meet him and see him perform live too one day, inshaAllah :)
|The beautiful stage. I love the colours!|
We met a lot of people on the day of the album launch itself! It was so nice meeting everyone and getting to know other Sami Yusuf supporters in Malaysia. I really hope we all can keep in touch :) We could sit wherever we wanted so we sat at a table with these awesome people: Azizul, his wife Anisa, her mother, and Azizah and Hazman. Honestly a lot of the people we met on that day looked very familiar, especially Azizul haha. We really felt like we'd seen him around somewhere. We mostly talked to Azizul because he was the nearest. He sat next to Tanvir so it was easier to speak with him. We spoke with Anisa too and she was so cute, she said "I'm so excited that Sami Yusuf is here that I'm getting a migraine!" hahhahah
|Our table, and Azizah & Hazman in the background! Unfortunately we didn't get a photo with them!|
|Tanvir is trying to contain his excitement haha|
|And me? I'm just...at peace!|
|Hafiz Hamidun giving his speech|
|Nabila on stage|
Once Nabila was done, Sami Yusuf was invited to join us. He made quite an entrance. He flashed everyone a big smile and waved to the crowd gracefully. He went straight to the stage, accompanied by two men who handed him one Salaam album each, marking the start of the album launch. He then continued to give a short speech. One of the memorable things he said was, "Somebody asked me, 'Why Malaysia?' regarding the album launch and I asked, 'Why not Malaysia?'." :) He then said that it was an honour to be here and he was happy to share this experience with his supporters. It was small, simple and intimate - just the way he liked it.
|Sami making his entrance|
|One of my favourite photos of the night - Sami waving happily to the crowd|
|Sami Yusuf poses with his latest album Salaam|
|Time for a speech|
After that, the VIPs were invited onto the stage which signified that the Salaam album had officially been launched in the South East Asia Region. The VIPs comprise representatives of Warner Music Malaysia and Warner Music Indonesia, among others. Immediately after that, the media was invited to a press release in a separate room while the rest of the guests were served some good, good food. Alhamdulillah the food was mouth-watering and delicious! The only dish that I personally felt was not up to par with the rest was the 'roti jala' (the yellow rolls in the photo). It was too dry so it wasn't as soft as how the roti jala should be. Other than that, every other dish was fantastic!
While we were all eating, the host kept us all entertained. He went around going from table to table, asking people to sing in order to get a free Salaam tshirt. Sad to say we didn't get it, but three of the people we met and made friends with on that day got it! So yay for Syafiq, Farhan and Hazman! After about 20 or so minutes, the press conference was over and Sami Yusuf was invited in again. He came in and walked straight to the stage, as ready as ever to perform for the eager guests. He performed four songs, all of which were from the latest album, Salaam. He first started with the song "Salaam" and it was simply magical. His voice was even better live! It felt as though we were listening to the CD - but much, much better! He had a wonderful stage presence and he interacted very well with the crowd. After Salaam, he moved on to "It's A Game". It really got the crowd going with its cheerful melody. You just can't help but bob your head to the music and sing along :) Then, there was silence. Sami walked over to the mic stand and settled himself. When he felt comfortable, he began singing "Ala Bi Dhikrika". Because this number had no music, only had vocals, you could really hear the beauty of his voice. The song was so powerful and it definitely tugged at your heart - at least it did mine. I could feel tears forming because I could feel every single emotion he was singing. He sang from his heart, and he touched all of our hearts. The last song he performed was "Happiness". I absolutely loved the song. Every bit of the song reflected its name. It was such a jolly tune. Everyone in the crowd was clapping their hands together. The entire experience felt like a dream. It really was a dream come true.
|He's blessed with such a beautiful voice mashaAllah|
|Don't you just love the colours in the photo?|
After his performance, he walked towards the VIP table and had a seat. It was only then that he ate and drank, after everyone else had finished. He was happily eating and chatting away with everyone at the table when two of the supporters who were from Aceh, Indonesia went over to him. They introduced themselves and presented him a rapa'i, which is a traditional Indonesian drum-like instrument. Sami was of course very happy and touched that they flew all the way here just to meet him :) They then performed a little number for him and he listened intently. They were really good - the girl had a beautiful voice and I loved the traditional sound and feel of the song. After that was done, they returned to their seats and Sami continued eating for a little while before he was invited to take a seat on the stage to start signing autographs and meeting all the supporters in the room.
|Everyone queuing up to meet brother Sami|
|The guy in the red chequered shirt is Mu'adz, one of the lovely people we met. He's a singer :)|
We wanted to be the last in line because hopefully then we would be able to talk to him for a longer time and give him our final surprise. While waiting for the queue to get shorter, we helped Omar interview a few other people for the video on SYO. Doing that was fun because we got to meet a lot of really nice people and got to know them a little better. We had the best time doing this. After we were done interviewing everyone else, I had a chance to speak in front of the camera. I was a little nervous but it went fine I think! You can be the judge later!
|Me and Farhan|
|With Hafiz Hamidun|
After that, Farhan excused himself because he was going to meet some friends. While we were waiting in line to meet brother Sami, we had a nice, long chat with Hafiz. What a nice person this guy is. He was so friendly and even though we just met, he made us feel like we're all long lost friends. We both had so much fun talking to him. God bless him :) He did a superb job of bringing Sami Yusuf back to Malaysia. The showcase was a success and every single person in the room was happy. I have to thank him and Arteffects again for doing such a wonderful job. More people know about the album launch and about the concert being cancelled now than before. It really shows what a great job Arteffects is doing. Keep up the good work. With God's grace, the company will definitely have a bright future ahead.
After the long chat with Hafiz, we finally got to meet our brother Sami Yusuf. We talked to him for a good 10 minutes or so. We really appreciate your time brother. Thank you so much for talking to us. Before we started our conversation, brother Sami said, "Ok wait, let me just get this right". He gestured his hand towards Tanvir's direction and said, "You are Tanvir" then moved toward me and said, "And you're Adlina. Am I right?" We said yes and thanked him for remembering our names. We talked about how it was a dream come true to watch him perform live, how we hoped to see him back here for a full-blown concert, then we talked about the songs that he sings. He was telling us that he's unlike a lot of other musicians in the sense that when we grow older, we start to feel silly supporting certain bands or certain types of music because we can no longer relate to their songs. That is why he tries to sing about the sacred, because no matter how old or young we are, we need God in our lives. We can always relate to God. After all, as he said, "We are fallen creatures. We were from the Heavens but then we fell. That's why we can relate to music and songs about the sacred". I completely agree with him and you know, every single time I talk to him, he never ceases to amaze me. He teaches me something profound every time we have a conversation. God bless him for that. After that we also talked about his favourite writers, one of them being Malaysian, to my surprise. He said, "If you can, please go and get their books and read them". The name of the Malaysian writer is Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, and the name of the other writer (I didn't ask where he's from, sorry!) is Seyyed Hossein Nasr. I can't wait to look for their books and have a good read :) Thank you so much for recommending them to us. He said he wanted to meet Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas but was unable to. Perhaps next time inshaAllah :)
We also asked about how he was feeling, whether he had rested. He said that it'd been absolutely tiring. "Yesterday was like a marathon really". Hopefully he managed to sleep well the night after the album launch. The funny thing was that while we were talking, Hafiz kept saying "Ok, I have to leave you for a while because I've guests waiting for me" and we all said "Ok go ahead" but he kept coming back and saying "I need to leave you for a while" and Sami said to him, "I thought you left! 6 minutes ago!" To which Hafiz replied, "I haven't. They're still waiting outside. Are you sure you're ok with it?" And Sami said, "Go", I said "Please, it's fine, he's in good hands". His staff also said, "seriously just go la" hahahahha. I love these moments. They all seem very comfortable around us :) Nasir also asked brother Sami if he needed anything specific tonight, and Sami answered "The only thing that is necessary is sleep tonight. Thank you". We said, "Yes, please get some sleep. You need the rest".
Then, we gave him our third and final surprise, to which again, he said, "What? Not another one! I'm going to have to surprise you again somehow". We gave it to him and he asked, "Can I open it?" We said, "Yes, we'd like to explain some of the stuff in there." So he opened it and he saw a sajda (prayer mat) and he said, "I actually don't have this in my room! Thank you" and he opened it up. I said, "Really? Did you call housekeeping? You can definitely ask them to bring one for you" and he laughed and said, "It's just me being very European. I just assume that it won't be there". Tanvir said "It's a mini sajda, a smaller one because you're always travelling so it's convenient for you to bring it around". The next item he saw and picked up was our card to him "The ABC's of Sami Yusuf". The name says it all really, we described him in every letter of the alphabet. I said, "It was really easy doing this for you because they're so true. We mean every word." And he flipped through them and said, "MashaAllah, thank you so much". I said, "it's rather long so you may not want to read it now". The next thing he saw was the flyer for the Lung Foundation of Malaysia charity bazaar. I said "There's actually going to be a charity bazaar tomorrow by the Lung Foundation of Malaysia and we wanted to invite you to come if you had the time, but since you're going back tomorrow you probably can't make it". He looked at the flyer and he asked Nabila, "Nabila, can we make it for this event tomorrow?" And she said, "No, we're leaving really early in the morning tomorrow". He looked a little sad and said, "I'm sorry I can't make it". Tanvir said, "It's ok, it would've just been nice if you could come and see it" Then I said, "May I tell you a little bit about the foundation?" and he told me to go ahead.
I then told him that both Tanvir and I are volunteers and that it was founded in 2005. I told him my father is actually the chairman, which was why I was so involved with the foundation. The main aim of the foundation was to help patients who have difficulty breathing. I told him that we take breathing for granted, most of us can breathe without any problems. Breathing is a real privilege. Some of these people literally have to walk around with small oxygen tanks and with tubes up their noses just to breathe. He looked absolutely upset when I said this. He asked, "Why do they have this problem? What causes it?" And this was when I started scrambling for the brochure because I don't remember the names of the diseases. I gave it to him and pointed him to the right page. "Basically they are chronic lung diseases. So the foundation is trying to help these very people". He said that it's such a good cause and he hopes that he can somehow support the foundation in some way. MashaAllah, he has such a kind heart :) Then, the people from Arteffects and Nabila needed him back, so we said, "Give us a little bit more time, we're almost done here". Then he looked into his gift box and saw miswak and excitedly said, "miswak!" Then we said, "the reason we got this for you is because the last time when we gave you a gift in July, as you were unwrapping it you excitedly asked if it was miswak, exactly the way you had just said it a moment ago. So we decided to get them for you this time. These are from Bangladesh. Tanvir's parents sent them over". He thanked us again, and he asked Tanvir, "Which part of Bangladesh are you from?" Tanvir answered, "Dhaka" and he said, "Ah, the 'upper' part. The city. I know quite a bit about Bangladesh. In the UK there are a lof of people originally from Bangladesh. Many of them are sufis" Honestly, after the miswak both Tanvir and I had completely forgotten about the non-alcoholic perfume we got him hahaha. We also forgot to tell him that they're in small bottles so that it's easier for him to bring them around on his travels.
Anywayy, it was great getting to talk to him. He was really generous with his time. We truly appreciate it and we appreciate him of course. He said, "Keep in touch! through twitter. I know I have been rather silent lately because I've been busy but whenever I get the chance, I do sit down and read all your comments" and he smiled. Then Tanvir said, "Oh and through live chats too". Sami answered, "Yes, I try to have those as often as I can. It's really nice interacting with you all". I said, "we're looking forward to your livechats, no matter if it's 3 or 4 in the morning or whenever" and he said apologetically, "I'm really sorry about the timing, unfortunately that was the time that was chosen" And I replied, "Don't be sorry. I think that's the best time for most of us". Then he said, "Take care, my prayers are with you and please send my salaam to your father, your family, your loved ones". On that note, we all said our goodbyes to him, to Nabila and Omar too. He ended with "Terima kasih banyak banyak" :)
We are both extremely grateful to have been given the chance to meet and talk to such an inspiring person. Thank you for everything, your music, your message... everything. Hope to see you back here in Malaysia. Meeting you always becomes our fondest memories.
To the rest of the readers, I hope you've enjoyed this extremely long post. If any of the information in here is wrong, please let me know because I wrote all this solely based on my memory (which admittedly is not very good). Before I end this post, please watch the latest video on the SYO website if you haven't. This video is very special to me and I'll always cherish it.
Also, I'm happy to share with you all that the Salaam album has already reached Gold in Malaysia! Just one day after the launch, 5000 copies of the CD had been sold - all in one day! This is fantastic news! If you haven't bought the album yet, please do so! You may contact Arteffects if you have any questions regarding the album. You can also listen to the samples of the song on SYO. Let's support Sami Yusuf :) Oh before I forget, if you all enjoyed this post, please follow our blog for regular updates :) Thanks for the support!
Take care everyone! God bless you! Til next time :)
** All photos are owned by me unless otherwise stated. Please do not use them without asking for permission :) Videos are not mine. **
Take care everyone! God bless you! Til next time :)
** All photos are owned by me unless otherwise stated. Please do not use them without asking for permission :) Videos are not mine. **