Jim Krane | the Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens, has quietly returned to music with a new album and concerts. And he's sounding a
lot like . . . Cat Stevens.
Thirty years after the folk singer converted to Islam, changed his name and dropped out of music, calling it un-Islamic, he has picked up the guitar once
more. He has reconciled pop music with his faith and wants to use it to spread a message of peace.
"When I come out now, I sound quite similar. For some people, it's a welcome return to the sound of my voice and my music," says Islam, who as Cat
Stevens sold 60 million albums with songs such as "Wild World" and "Peace Train."
Islam now says he's trying to make amends for dropping out all those years ago -- and he admits he might have hurt some feelings. His break might not
have been as complete had the press been more understanding about his conversion to Islam, he says.
"I walked away abruptly. Perhaps that had something to do with the reaction I received from the press at the time. I was given the cold shoulder," Islam
"Now it's the opposite. I don't feel that same hostility. People appreciate that I'm [making music again] for a really good reason: to make peace and try
and make people happy."
The 58-year-old, dressed in a blue denim button-down shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbow, spoke in a small Dubai office that doubles as a recording studio
and the offices of Jamal Records, a label he co-owns. His salt and pepper hair is cropped short and tousled, and he sports a bushy gray-black beard and
close-cropped mustache in the style of a pious Muslim.
So far, Islam's comeback has been low-key. A concert aired on BBC TV Sunday, and he is considering taking part in the Live Earth concert series to raise
awareness about climate change, planned for July.
Late last year, Islam launched his first pop album since his conversion in 1977. Titled An Other Cup, the folksy album includes a song he...wrote in 1968,
"Greenfields, Golden Sands."
As Yusuf Islam, he had previously only recorded a handful of spoken word records on Islamic topics, some with percussion.
Dubai, where the singer lives part of the year (he spends most of his time in his native London), is where Islam's return to music took place after his son
bought a guitar in 2002. "He brings it home, and there's this guitar in the house," Islam says with a pause and a demure smile, eyes downcast. "I looked
at it and, well, we just got back together again."
But he had already been moving back toward it, with a lot of study about the Prophet Muhammad's attitudes toward music. He...learned that a guitar or
similar instrument was introduced to Europe by a
7th-century Muslim musician who brought it from Baghdad to Muslim-ruled Spain.
"For a long time, I had doubts about music. There's a certain point of view among certain schools of thought in Islam that considers music too closely
connected to hedonistic tendencies, you know, sex, drugs and rock and roll," he says.
"But when you take it out of one context and put it in another context, which is connected to healing, spirituality, morality and family values, it's whole-
some good stuff," he said.
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