America’s first Muslim country music singer performed in Italy for the first time on Sunday as part of a United States Embassy co-sponsored European tour.
Kareem Salama, born and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma in the southern US, is the son of Egyptian immigrants. He began to get into country music while studying in graduate school.
He performed in front of a mostly Italian crowd at the Villa Celimontana Jazz Festival held in Rome. His songs were well received by everyone, who energetically clapped after every song.
“People in Europe have strong stereotypes about what country music is,” said Salama in an interview. He speaks Arabic and English.
In his songs, he draws on elements of Rock, Pop, Country and Folk music, as well as Islamic themes, Sufism, poetry and issues ranging from chivalry and nobility to war.
Kareem Salama, whose name means ‘Generous well-being’, performed for 90 minutes and performed his most famous hits. The songs included ‘Baby, I’m a soldier’ which recounts the face-to-face encounter between an Iraqi and an American soldier who end up killing each other on the battlefield.
In 2006, he wrote a song called ‘Prayers at night’ in order to draw attention to the war that year between Israel and Lebanon.
Salama told he would like to perform in his parents’ native Egypt and is confident that his music would be well received there.
He draws a parallel between old Arabic music and country music. “Both talk about virtues. A lot of storytelling. Storytelling is a huge thing in country music. They are very similar,” he said. (MORE)