SHAAM came together in late 1997 seeking to present and re-interpret traditional Islamic songs known as nasheeds - a genre that originates from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
These spiritually uplifting songs seek to praise Allah and His final Messenger. They are distinguished by their emphasis upon vocals and percussion only, with stringed and wind instruments being shunned in deference to orthodox Islamic precepts. It is this style of song that SHAAM have mastered over the past few years.
The group, composed of Haroon Bashir, Mahmood Norris, Yasin Alam and Imran Bashir - all young men from Birmingham, England - took their name from the place that had inspired them: Syria (in Arabic, Shaam). All had at some stage or another studied and visited Damascus and there had come into contact with groups who would sing timeless nasheeds with moving lyrics, accompanied by the rousing and intricate beating of the duff, a traditional one-sided hand drum. Though having been taught this art by some of the best teachers, alongside studies in more formal Islamic subjects, the idea of forming their own group was not an obvious one. It was only the encouragement of learned people, family and friends, who, impressed at their grasp of this unique, mainly Arabic art by non-Arabs, pushed them to sing live. So what started out as a tentative foursome gradually evolved into a confident, polished quartet. It was therefore no surprise to see, in a short period of time, how popular SHAAM became as a live act touring around the British Isles performing at weddings, celebrations and events.
Presenting themselves as heirs of this unique, ancient Islamic art, SHAAM have sought to make nasheeds accessible to young and old, and, mindful of the fact that the majority of their audiences do not understand Arabic, have added Urdu and English nasheeds to their large repertoire of songs. Their stirring renditions, coupled with exquisite drumming, have led to invitations to perform in countries as far afield as the USA, Syria and Pakistan. It is no exaggeration to say hundreds of thousands have witnessed the mastery of SHAAM live and the group considers itself fortunate to count the likes of Prince Charles amongst its many admirers.
Despite hundreds of performances and many albums, SHAAM's passion for their art remains as strong as ever as they strive to make Islamic devotional songs widely accessible in a variety of languages and styles, some old and some new. Yet all the while they are aware that they are carriers of weighty words with yet weightier meaning.
Nasheeds that remind and above all else bear witness to the majesty of Allah Most High and the culmination of His religion, Islam, through the last and greatest of his Messengers, the Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.