Meet Zain Bhikha

Zain Bhikha

Zain Bhikha is a singer- songwriter who has inspired fans the world over with his messages of hope and upliftment. Through his music, creative workshops and television, Zain has gained a loyal following of young and old fans.
Zain recorded his first album in 1994, going on to become a pioneer of the ‘Nasheed’ genre of music & opening doors for other English Islamic singers. His albums have been launched in many countries including the United Kingdom, North America, Malaysia, France, Turkey, Holland, India, The Middle East, and Australia.
He has performed live in cities across most continents and has become a household name when it comes to spiritual music. Zain has also collaborated with a long list of high profile artists including Dawud Wharnsby, Native Deen, Outlandish, Sami Yusuf, Raihaan, Khalid Belhrouzhi, Ahmed Bukhatir, Imad Rami, Ziryab, Khalil Ismail. Not to mention being mentored by Yusuf Islam (former Cat Stevens).

Zain was born in Pretoria and was said to be musically inclined from a young age and was often complimented on his melodious singing voice. Without formal training, his natural inclination for writing and composing led him to entered and win a singing competition hosted by ‘702’ in 1994.
A simple song that he recorded on his home karaoke system, stood out amongst the thousands of mainly professional participants.

Zain has also written and directed theatrical productions with a spiritually uplifting message, like “An Orphans Tale”, which he produced in conjunction with a South African School.
In 2008, he designed a special course to motivate the youth to use their own creative talents for the benefit of society. Entitled, “The Art of Creative Expression”, these one-day workshops touched over 1000 attendees nationwide in the first month. Since then workshops have been successfully conducted in London (2009), in association with Dawud Wharnsby and the Redbridge Council, and Australia. Zain aims to take these workshops to countries throughout the world within the next few years.

Personal

Q: The all important personal profile. How would a close friend introduce you at a social event? i.e.
Name, age, company, interesting fact etc.
A: Zain Bhikha, age 37, born and grew up in Laudium, Pretoria but now living in Johannesburg. I work full time with my Dad running a health company selling herbal products. My singing started in 1994 and I have released over 8 albums thus far. I have toured many parts of the world including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Reunion, United Kingdom, Scotland, Holland, Belgium, India, China, Malaysia, Turkey, Middle East, United States and many others. My songs inspire the hearts towards God consciousness and social upliftment. I also work with various charities and school and run workshops for the youth around the world. I am married and have 4 boys.

Q: Tell us something that not many others know about you. This could be anything from a phobia to
your favourite movie.
A: I hate flying. I get very nervous on an aeroplane and that’s why I try not to take too many overseas shows.

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you want to get away from it all?
A: Hmm, I love watching movies, especially ones that inspire. I love playing soccer and my favourite teams are Manchester United and Real Madrid. My favourites past time is having a braai at home.

Q: How would you describe your dream home and where in South Africa would you like it to be?
A: Oh, if I had a choice, I would live permanently in Durban in the Umhlanga area. I love the sea, especially since its warm and the weather is good all year round, so yes, definitely Durban. My dream would be a simple hut on the beach!

Music Career:

Q: You’ve just released your single ‘A Better Day’ in support of the 16 Days of Activism campaign. When did you write the song & did you always aim for it to be related to this cause/ topic?
A: I wrote the song actually around a year ago when I did a workshop in England and one of the young people told me their heart wrenching story of abuse. I didn’t intend it to be released at this time but when I found out more, I thought this would be a great opportunity to add my voice in support for the campaign to stop violence against women and children. The workshops that I am planning will be inspiring for me and I feel honoured to be able to try to make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it’s a small way.

Q: What kinds of activities do you ask people to engage in at the ACE workshops and how do they impact people?
A: Well, there’s lots of motivation and trying to inspire people that we can’t always control the struggles that we face but we can always control our responses to them. I try to give the message that we are all unique, created by God and that we should celebrate who we are. We have fun activities like making a flag in a group, writing poems, thinking about our strengths, dreams and most valuable people. I also incorporate lots of singing and interaction. Its loads of fun and I am equally inspired each time by what people come up with.

Q: Are the ACE workshops religion-based and are they open to all religions/ cultures?
A: Absolutely open to people of all faiths. I try my best in my music and the workshops to break down stereotypes and build bridges. The world is filled with too much hatred and intolerance as it is and we all need to do our bit to make people smile and bring the hearts together. This is my way and I am honoured that organisations and individuals are always so open to it.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with this single and ACE tour?
A: Try to make a difference myself, in the activities that I am doing. Hopefully, the song and the very powerful video that we have created will be around for a long time and the main purpose is to inspire either those going through it to be strong and overcome and possibly others who are not, to be aware of the problem and try to make a difference in their own way, in their communities and families wherever they may be in the world.

Q: A strong message of love, tolerance and peace is prominent in your music. What do you think everyday South Africans can do daily to change the country for the better?
A: I think Apartheid has scarred us in so many ways and the divide between rich and poor is too big. First and foremost, we all need to give of our wealth and our time to those less fortunate. In serving others is where we will unite this country. We also need to be more tolerant and accepting our others cultures and traditions and learn more about other religions and races. We have far too much in common as human beings and we need to unite on those things to work towards a better future for our children. We have come very far as a nation but there is an awfully long way to go.

Q: Do you think the 16 Days of Activism is an effective campaign? What do you think South Africans can gain from it?
A: I think more can be done but its start. We have to start somewhere and as long as we find sustainable ventures and initiatives that can change lives, we can make this work. But it always requires a start. This for me too, is also my start…

Q: What inspires you to write new songs?
A: Anything and everything around me. Sometimes it can be my children, seeing someone on the street, meeting an orphan and just realising the problems the world faces. Most of my songs are an indication of my own life and my thoughts from time to time. I believe that art is really putting piece of your soul out there for the world to share…

Life in South Africa

Q: Have you or any of your immediate family been affected by crime? If yes, has it changed your perception of the country and the way you and your family live your lives?
A: We did have some very traumatic experiences especially my sister’s family. I think we somehow deal with this on an ongoing basis and eventually it becomes part of our lives. As South Africans we all would love to live in a safer environment and I have confidence that we will get there. It will just take time. I think we also have to realise that crime affects everyone irrespective of race, background etc.

Q: Have you ever considered emigration? If yes, where do you think you would emigrate to?
A: I did actually, after we sold our business in 2007, we thought that it might be nice to try living in another country. We moved to Dubai for about 2 years because of its mixture of east and west and the ease of residency there. However, in the end we missed our families too much and this is after all our home and our country.

Q: If you were given the opportunity of sitting down with the president, what advice would you offer him?
A: Wow, I never considered this question before. I would ask him to stay true to the people on the ground, to really work on the needs of those most impoverished and in need. I would also tell him to be more firm on corruption in public service and lastly, I’d tell him that I believe in him…

Q: Which South African artists do you admire/ respect?
A: I love and admire Pops Mohamed, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg, Avante, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the late Mariam Makeba…

Life in Joburg:

Q: What do you enjoy the most about living in Joburg?
A: The availability of good food, the fast pace, the ability to get something done quickly, the wealth of creative talent and the fact that it’s the greenest city in the world!

Q: Favourite place to perform in Joburg?
A: The Market Theatre. It is so special and with much significance to this country

Q: What is the one place in Joburg that is a must visit for all tourists?
A: Too many to name! The Lion Park and Zoo – especially for the kids. Gold Reef City, Montecasino, Newtown, Soccer City and Fordsburg

General:

Q: If you could pick anyone as your mentor, who would it be & why?
A: Yusuf Islam (former Cat Stevens) for giving me international exposure and teaching me so much about music and production, stage performance and dedicating his life to peace. But more importantly, my father, who is a remarkable man who has achieved so much but is the essence of humility and shows respect to all people.

Q: One book that you would make required reading for all matric pupils?
A: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela is truly inspiring and a must for all South Africans.

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