Various Artists, Celebrate Muhammad

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
R&B-styled singers and boy bands celebrate the founder of Islam.

Celebrating the founder of Islam with R&B-styled singers and boy bands might sound a little bizarre, but it's really no weirder than the concept of Christian metal, and what could be an awkward culture clash actually slides together very well. There's a welcome unplugged sparseness to the tracks — mostly just singing and hand percussion — and a number of surprising left turns, as on the Aa'shiq-al-Rasul cuts that recall Gregorian chant or "Tala Al-Badru 'Alayna" from Shaheed Alkwan, which contains echoes of Polynesian choirs in its odd rhythms and eerie harmonies. When this does hit straight ahead R&B (I-man's "Muhammad Mustafa," for instance, or Khaleel Muhammud's "Follow Muhammud") it does so with a beautiful sophistication — think a mature Boyz II Men. You can even ignore the religious message and just relax into the lush pillow of voices. There's certainly nothing wrong with working on several levels — and this compilation definitely does.