Zain Bhikha remembers an encounter with an old man he met on his way from Medina to Mecca. He told Zain: Are not you a famed singer? Please write for me a lyric about Messenger Muhammad and sing it?’ ‘Insha Allah (God willing),’ he answered.
Just before he left for his homeland, he was feeding his eyes with a beauteous landscape which revealed itself to him and his wife who were beside the window in his apartment; he was specially struck by the beauty of mountains. ‘Mountains of Mecca, what do you have to narrate?’ He asked the mountains, who had been witness to many outstanding events in history, including the birth and growth of the Prophet.
The interaction grew into a song, which the world has always been singing and signing ever since. Tender spiritual emotions the song carried resulted in its popularity. Pilgrims who go to Mecca and Medina come back to Zain and say: your song has influenced our pilgrimage in such a way that words fail to describe it.
Zain Bhikha was born in South Africa on August 9, 1974 as an only boy among four children of his loving parents. His father was trader and Zain Bhikha was brought into familiarity with the trade in his childhood. Buying and selling is the beat of a market, Zain Bhikha said later. He helped his father from a young age. His father later gained mastery over Prophetic medicine and became a physician.
Zain Bhikha would sing in all programmes during his days at school. Rap music held sway then. It was born as a cultural rebellion against the apartheid.
Radio 702 conducted a singing competition which invited budding singers to write lyrics on a new South Africa and sing them. Zain Bhikha was confident that he could perform in the competition well. He recorded his song in the tape recorded at home and sent the same to 702. He was chosen as one of the 12 elected singers. By the Grace of God, he was later chosen the first.
Happiness was juxtaposed with the sad demise of his close friend at school. He went to watch a movie, not to come back.
It was when Zain started to think of death. ‘What is the meaning of life?’ ‘If it is death, why do then toil on the earth until the eternal silence.’ His young mind was shadowed with existential questions.
Thereafter we see Zain Bhikha writing and singing on love, friendship and god. From 1990, Zain was a singer whose fond topics were the above three.
Zain Bhikha was conducting musical performances on the lyrics he wrote in English. Music was recorded at that time unaided by instruments. He was hardly aware of music industry and its technicalities. But lack of professionalism had not affected Bhikha. He had a huge fanfare.
Meanwhile he came to hear about Yusuf al Islam, aka Cat Stevens, and that was a turning point in Bhikha’s life. Yusuf sang about Islam in English and his album on the life of the Prophet, which came to market during 1994-5, influenced him to a great extent. He ardently wanted to meet the singer though pessimistic about the fact that there was hardly any chance for an ordinary South African dilettante musician to meet iconic singer who lives in the UK. Though Yusuf Islam once came to South Africa, Bhikha could not meet him. Fortunately, Yusuf Islam had come to listen to some of Bhikha’s albums.
Bhikha vividly remembers a fax message which was sent to him from London, when he was helping his father. The message was an invitation to Bhikha to join Yusuf Islam to sing for an upcoming album titled A is for Allah
His parents were happy about their son’s prospects and Bhikha knew that a new door had just been opened in his career.
He sang about five songs in the album. Bhikha was inspired more by the suggestions and teachings of Yusuf al Islam during the time when they worked together. Zain Bhikha became a close friend of the master who helped him rise to fame in many parts of the world. Zain Bhikha’s albums were thereafter brought out by Jamal Records which the son in law of Yusuf al Islam was running from Dubai.
These albums focused on the gen-next. His associate Dawud Wharnsby motivated him a lot.
Bhikha has organised workshops for children, adults and grown-ups. He taught them songs. He has also worked for Peace TV, a channel from India. As part of the birth day of the Prophet (miladunnabi) held in Abu Dhabi on 24th April 2008, Zain Bhikha sang. The Peace Train, directed by Yusuf al Islam was one of the sons.
The first album of Bhikha was Read All About It, which he brought out in 1996, which was followed by Baby in 1999 and Children of Heaven in 2000. These albums were all about children. Faith, which came out in 2001, was about the Might of God and had songs addressed to the newly-weds. The World came out in 2002 in which his son Rashid Bhikha also sang
It was in 2005 that his most popular Mountains of Mecca was brought out. In 2006, his album Allah knows hit the market. The album contains sonorous songs which sang with Wharnsby.
His discography includes 1415: The Beginning (2009), First We Need the Love (2010), A Way of Life (2010) Hope, (2011) Better Day (2011).