I believe that sometimes, people don’t even know why they’re drawn to the things they are. It’s like something in their spirit is telling them to dance, write, cook or sing and they have no idea that the urge to do so came from deep within their ancestry. Maybe from a long-ago relative who was an exceptional dancer, writer, chef or singer who passed the talent down but kept it dormant for generations until the right person came along to claim it. Or maybe what they’re drawn to is ingrained in their people’s history, but a history that has remained hidden for too long.
Such is the case with Islam for some who choose to convert. Becoming Muslim, to them, is reclaiming a faith that had been stripped away many decades earlier when Muslim Africans who were brought to America as slaves were prevented from practicing their religion. This may also be the case with my brother, a twenty-something guitarist who seemingly overnight became a Blues musician. The Blues, of course, has deep roots in the African American tradition but generally, not with young people. To see him–in a graphic T-shirt and a pair of Vans–so comfortably strumming his pain away and humorously singing his heart out, makes me think that Blues music originates from further down in our people’s past than the Mississippi Delta.
Take a look at what I found out about African Muslims and American Blues in this piece written for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. And this video, Islam and Blues, is a must-see; particularly listen to the comparison between the adhan (the Muslim call to prayer) and a Blues song, “Levee Camp Holler,” starting at about the two-minute, fifty-five-second mark.