Cultural Arts Review- Kareem Salama, Generous Peace

Posted on May 4, 2013 by

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Kareem Salama is widely known to the US as the first Muslim American country music singer.  Born and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma, he is of Egyptian American descent—his parents immigrated to the US from Egypt in the 1960s.

One of his most widely known songs is Generous Peace, the eighth track off of his May 2011 album, City of Lights.  First released in December 2009 as an EP, the song and music video were released by LightRain Records and officially posted to YouTube.  The video has only 181,000 views, which is considered a very small amount by popular YouTube standards, but relatively large considering the popularity and little public knowledge of Salama.  He writes songs that are relevant to his life and convey messages to both the Islamic community as well as society as a whole, without religious denomination.  The music video to Generous Peace displays a taste of what he may have gone through in his family as Egyptian immigrants practicing Islam in the United States, and it certainly depicts events that occur daily in Muslim populations in the US as well as other places around the world.

The music video begins with typical, twangy country notes and 3 male friends hanging out at a mall food court when one gets a text from his little sister who wants him to give her friend and her a ride home from the mall with them.   The video then shows a skinny blonde girl and girl wearing a hijab being goofy and trying things on in stores before walking through the food court to greet the guys, one of which is the Muslim girl’s brother.  A separate group of young males makes fun of the girl wearing the hijab and both her friend and brother, as well as his group of friends notice.  It is apparent the brother is contemplating confronting the group of boys, but eventually decides not to.

The lyrics of the song match the scenario, however they could be applied to many situations where people decide to choose their battles.  The lyrics that are sung when the brother decides not to fight are “We can fight but we don’t need to fight tonight / Yeah, we’ll put out the fire / If I’m gonna fight then I fight for what’s right.” Suggesting that he is choosing not to fight because he doesn’t believe it’s right to fight someone for bullying someone who looks different; even though he doesn’t condone the actions he is choosing not to fight because it could potentially only enforce the stereotype of someone in a hijab.  That stereotype would be that the person not only practices a different religion that is perhaps not ‘right’ in the eyes of some, but that females need males to defend them, and that the males are very violent.

The religious dimensions of the song as a piece of art on a whole can be interpreted as either present or not.  Nowhere in the song does it explicitly talk about religion or a god.  However, it can easily be interpreted as religious because it states that people need to fight for what’s right, work towards “Generous Peace,” and not replying to ugly words with more hate.  Not taken religiously, the song could simply refer to wisely choosing one’s battles or being morally or ethically strong.

The music video to the song exemplifies Muslim-American life in America, for those Muslims who choose to make their religion clear to the public.  This is much more apparent for female Muslims, as exemplified in the video, who choose to wear a hijab—the female was much more apparently Muslim than the male, who the boys did not bully.  It also shows how Muslims (or other people who are bullied in society) sometimes choose not to fight back because they are showing virtue, restraint, and respect even though the bully is not.  Another thing the lyrics of the song suggest is that the bully just looks like a fool with his actions and the victim chooses not to also look like a fool and instead decide to treat the bully like a person: “You’re a fool enough for the both of us but I still try to find the good in you.”

Overall, Salama is a delightful country musician who’s art conveys messages of peace and unity among the Islamic community everywhere as well as between Muslims and people of all faiths.

Below is posted a link to the Generous Peace music video on YouTube, as well as a link to Salama’s official website.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ursOHxkDKfE

http://www.kareemsalama.com

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Posted in: Islam