Zain Bhikha is a household name in my family so it is no surprise that I bought a copy of his latest CD as soon as it was released. By 'as soon as', I mean I went to the Al-Ansar bookstore and asked them if they have the new CD, they said they did not know it was out. Two days later I walked into the shop and they took out a copy for me as soon as they saw me. It had just arrived. :)
So now after a month of listening to it, I decided to do a little review for those who are not sure if they should purchase it.
The CD is entitled "A Way of Life" after the first track which is a new version of the Golden Oldie from Zain's ancient album "Children of Heaven". New versions of old songs is the common theme in this CD and it was much needed, these old songs have great messages yet I noticed that when the new generation listens to them, they find it too slow and the tunes outdated.
Clearly, Zain realized this too and over the past three CDs, he has taken some of his best old songs and made them relevant again. "A Way of Life" offers 14 songs, 11 with drum versions as well, making it altogether 25 tracks. Compared to "1415: The beginning" which featured mostly mature themed songs aimed at the youth, "A Way of life" is clearly aimed primarily at children.
Here is my review of the songs:
1) A Way of Life: 5 Stars
The new version of A Way of Life is faster and sung by some children (as are many of the tracks on this CD). I like the fact that Zain is using more children in his CDs, my kids love listening to songs sung by other children and so do we as it has a unique innocence to it that makes it more enjoyable.
2) 25 Prophets: 5 Stars
I prefer the drum version of this song, but either way it is a brilliant new song which makes it so easy for children to memorize the names of 25 prophets (No Yusha though) and has a very nice tone. I heard this song before at the Peace Conference in Mumbai 2007 and in "Enjoying Islam with Zain and Dawud" on PEACE TV. Great educational track.
3) When I Grow Up: 4 Stars
This song is definitely for kids by kids. Some cute children sing about what they will be when they grow up (teacher, Doctor, Mummy and most importantly, the best Muslims they can be), children will love this song as will parents, the youth might skip it though as they won't find it relevant to themselves unless they love kids.
4) Although I never saw his face: 4 Stars
This song starts of slow, and sounds like the old version at first, then it picks up speed and is really a very beautiful song describing the Prophet (pbuh). Once you get passed the slow start, it is a beautiful moving song which increases your love for the prophet (pbuh).
5) Turn to Allah: 4 Stars
Another old classic from Yusuf Islam's "A is for Allah" album, the new version is sung by children and sounds beautiful. Another fun song for kids.
6) Muslim School Anthem: 5 Stars
A reworking of "Children of Heaven"s song "Pretoria Muslim School Anthem", the new version is edited to not be restricted to any specific school and contains general lyrics sung very beautifully by a young girl. My favortie track on this CD, even though it is one of the only tracks without a drum version.
7) Give thanks to Allah: 4 Stars
A new version of a song so old that many people did not know Zain Bhikha sung it and a rumor went around that Michael Jackson converted to Islam and recorded it, which I find hilarious. This new version is fun but very short, I think its the shortest track on the CD.
8) I am a Muslim: 5 Stars
Another golden oldie now sung by little kids. It is one of my favorite tracks on this CD and I love the fact that Zain changed the wording of the final segment about death. The old version had him singing about death as if his time was up, the new version has the kids singing about death occuring someday and we know not when Allah will call us home. A good change that made this song even better.
9) Welcome O Ramadaan: 3 Stars
The second song not to have a drum version, but honestly I can not make up any real difference between this and the old version except the sound quality. Not that the old version is bad, it is still a beautiful song that we hear every Ramadaan, it is just the only song which I can't really hear any significant change in.
10) Eid-un Sa-Eid: 5 Stars
One of the best new versions of an old song on this CD, especially the drum version. This was already one of his most famous songs, but this new version is awesome, it is faster paced, features children singing joyfully with Zain and just creates a great atmosphere for Eid. The video is beautiful too, watch it here.
11) Salaamun Salaam: 5 Stars
The third track not to have a drum version and it does not need one. This is a very famous song, the PEACE TV theme song. This song is so old I can not recall which album it is from, I think it was sung by Zain on the "A is for Allah" album by Yusuf Islam. Anyway, this version is a bit faster, better quality with a beautiful chorus of children singing in the background.
12) Which of Allah's favors can we deny: 4 stars
Another old song recorded again with better quality and a faster tune. Really nice track with a great message.
13) Forever: 5 Stars
This is definitely going to be the hit track of this CD, expect to hear it all the time on Radio. It is a touching love song about the love between parents and their children sung beautifully by Zain and his young son Muhammad. The video too is very beautiful, watch is here.
14) Spread the word: 5 Stars
A new faster version of the song from the "Our World" album. I love this new version even more than the old one. It has a nice tune to it and a beautiful message about the importance of Dawah.
Overall: 9 out of 10
This is a great addition to any Nasheed collection for parents and children. However those who were hoping for another mature themed album like 1415 might be disappointed as this CD is clearly aimed at children. I like the fact that Zain is producing CDs for both the youth and children. For me, this is my favorite CD of his after 1415: The Beginning, and it is the only CD of his in which I love all the tracks and don't skip any of them.