There was a time, back perhaps twelve years ago, when I would say, “I can’t live without music.” It is interesting how times change. After eight years as a Muslim, during which time I have more or less abstained from listening to song, I find there is not much I treasure more than peace. Sitting here now, writing this down, there are only three sounds I am aware of: the humming of the refrigerator, the ticking of the wall clock and the heartening bird song outside. Oh, and a plane is just flying over.
The peace is a joy.
I find this different kind of living also affects what my ears will now tolerate. I split my entire CD collection between one of my brothers and my sister after I became Muslim eight years ago, but I recently received some of them back when my brother sold his English flat. I put a few of them on one evening, but I soon discovered that the only one which still sat well with me was Tracy Chapman’s New Beginning.
I used to have a very eclectic taste in the olden days. I was a fan of the South African reggae artist Lucky Dube, the Benin Afro-Pop performer Angelique Kidjo and the great musicians of Mali, but I was also into Irish rock. I would listen to the hip-hop of Spearhead, The Fugees, Arrested Development, Coolio and Rappin 4-Tay, but also the soulful notes of Erica Badu and Casandra Wilson. I listened to The Beautiful South and REM, but also to Sinead O’Connor and Nina Simone. There were many more in fact, the names of which I have long fogotten. Strangely I cannot sit and listen to them now as once I could. Lucky Dube no longer pleases me and The Fugees no longer entertain.
They disrupt the serenity. The bird song outside is a much greater delight.
Recently my eldest brother gave me Corinne Bailey Rae’s CD as a gift. I cannot listen to it though. Nine years ago I would have enjoyed that kind of thing – the couple of tracks I played for a few seconds reminded me of what I recall of Erica Badu in some respects. But my tastes have completely altered – that album must be to me what the hard Mos Def rap album was to him when I bought it on recommendation seven years ago. Each seems light years away from where we are now. I have walked this far along another path. My view of life is different. What appeals to me now is the more gentle, the more raw, the more pure. That which is closer to the human heart, or at least to my heart as it is today.
A lot of what I once considered beautiful music – that without which I believed I could not live – now seems like nothing but noise. I want the peace instead. It is interesting: one of the last songs I was listening to before I became Muslim is one of few that relaxes me to today. It is Tracy Chapman’s At This Point In My Life. Funny, because that title probably says it all.