Dark Angel to YT: Yemen taught me how to walk and talk with respect and to show the Brits in England that we are people that work hard and believe in what we do. [Archives:2001/50/Interview]

December 10 2001

Not many people know that there is a rising British star of Yemeni origin currently gaining more fame and popularity as days pass by. He is a Yemeni singer that has attracted widespread attention to his talent of performing magical melodies and lyrics. He is known in the UK by the Dark Angel.
Yemen Times learned about Dark Angel (Alawi Abdullah Abu Bakir) from one of his admirers who sent an email asking, Do you know that there is a growing star in the UK of Yemeni origin? You must be proud of him!
Despite being an emerging star in the UK, he is yet a humble and gentle Yemeni, whos proud of being a Yemeni.
To know more about this young talented man, Yemen Times interviewed him in an attempt to reveal his true story to the Yemeni people, who would see him as an example of what a Yemeni could do, alone, in other countries of the world. The goals of the interview are also to show how hard work, motivation, and faith could make an ordinary Yemeni coming from Aden a star in the UK.
Q: Who is Dark Angel? From where and from what family in Yemen is he?
A: I will say my true name because I dont think it will be known in England. My real name is Alawi Abdullah Abu Bakir. I come from Lahaj in the south of Yemen. I left when I was just a young boy. My father, Abdullah Abu Bakir, is in Yemen at the moment. I doubt that he will know that its me who is being interviewed. I will explain why later, but I suppose with those photos hes going to know. I know that Alawi is a common name in Yemen.
Q: Did your family approve of your decision to become a singer? How did your countrys traditions affect you?
A: My family (Dark Angel smiles and laughs). This is not going to be an easy question but here goes; My family doesnt know I am a singer. No one knows who the Dark Angel is, not even the closest of my friends and family. Only the musicians and producers I work with know. I made that decision a long time ago because I knew they would not understand me and I love them too much to burden them with my dreams. My father and mother had sacrificed too much in coming to England for me to blurt out that I am going to be a singer. My family thinks I am lazy and doing nothing in the UK. My family thinks I just hang out at nights with friends. If only they know the double life I am living! Well, theyre going to know now arent they? Well, it was about time I suppose.
Sure, there are times I wish they were there when I am singing to so many people. I wish I could get them on stage in front of those people and introduce them as my father and mother whom I love very much. I wish I could tell the whole world about it, but I cant. Someday they will find out, but I have been lucky because the press and TV channels have always made me mysterious because I told them that Ill never sign that paper to come to their show unless they blur my face or darken the lights. Thats why you have photos where you can hardly see my face.
My country affected me a great deal. I remember much of it when I was there in Aden. They were hard times, but they were times filled with love, culture, color, laughter, music and glorious food. I feel that I am Yemeni, the son of Yemen, and I have with me the history of Solomon and Queen Sheba. I have with me the greatest religion (Islam), a way of life, and I have the faces of those children who were good friends of mine. Yemen affected me in a way that I had to live with honor, with respect, and not for money or power. I mean Yemen taught me how to walk and talk with respect and to show the Brits in England that we are people that work hard and believe in what we do. If I make one fatal step of arrogance then it wouldnt just affect me alone; it affects the Yemeni people there in Yemen as well. That is what other Yemenis that came to England must adhere to and understand!
It went far as to how I treat non-Muslims, who saw nobility not in me only but in the whole of Yemen. It went on to the level of singing on stage and thanking not just the audience, but the workers behind the scenes. Just because I am in England does not mean I am free to act like a fool. No, when I left Yemen, I took with it all its nobility within me. Thats how it affected me.
Q: How was your beginning in the UK?
A: It was hard. I couldnt adjust at first. Actually I couldnt for many years because of the language barrier. I missed Yemen, its simple life and the real things of aunts and uncles, but my parents were thinking the best for us. I had it hard through school years. I couldnt concentrate for many years, even comprehensive school and college studies were shambles. I was in too many fights. I wasnt a happy child for many years. I was somewhere far. I had a dream, and I just didnt know where to go or whom to ask. I wanted to sing and not learn anything. I wanted to write songs and music, not math. I wanted it so badly, I would go in the fields of England, on the hills where no one could see or hear me, and every day and night I would sing. Wherever I was, I would sing. I would sing until my mouth was dry, until my lungs hurt. I worked hard for years, secretly, on perfecting my voice. But no, I didnt listen or copy any great singer, and thats why when you hear my songs or voice, it is new, original and all me.
Q: Did you ever imagine that you would reach this level of fame and produce albums?
A: Yes. I am not trying to be arrogant but if you do not believe in yourself 100% then your dream dies. I knew I would make it but I knew that ahead of me was going to be such a battle that I needed to believe, no matter how hard it got. It got hard. It got so hard that I would not eat much, but like an artist who paints a canvas, use his money for food and even rent to pay for his songs to come to life. I had obstacles, on my left, right and center. Those obstacles ranged from difficulties in keeping it a secret from non-Yemenis to the hardship of my singing in studios and youth centers. It was a battle all the way through. People, it seems, do not like winners, and that is why many famous people who do make it remember the lack of support they had and sometimes they never help anyone when they get to the top. Remember that people; and thats a message to Prince Naseem too!
Fame is just an illusion, no more, no less. I didnt do what I did for fame, but fame came my way. I am known in the UK as a singer. I can go on stage with any prominent musical group and they can play anything I would have the soul and ears of music to follow them. That was not taught to me; it is a gift because in just a second those musicians change that melody and if you dont follow it you will be out of key, in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands. I never, ever got out of key because I have music within me. Yes I produce Albums but do not think of the level I am at now my friend. Think of how hard it was to get to where I am. Fame? No! It doesnt go to my head and I dont think about it. It isnt something big for me. It would be when I am in Yemen or any Arab country because it would be so real. It would be so great singing to my people but the problem is that I sing in English, so maybe my work wouldnt be appreciated as much. Who knows?
Q: How many albums and songs have you made so far?
Which of them have gained highest publicity and greatest admiration?
A: I have made six secret ones, and they will never be released until I want to. I have released four albums and four LPs. An LP has six songs, which is not a lot. Yes, my name became known from two years and how?
By sheer hard work and by singing with other bands across the country and with DJs to get my name known before I even went on stage on my own with my own band.
I have no manager. I manage myself. I design my own publicity, my own designs for CDs. I write my own songs, I write the melody, I organize the band, I pay for the rehearsals, I get the gigs and thats how I did it. It took 17 years to get to where I am because it took 17 years of planning, and then I executed it, and did it hard and fast. Success and failure has one thing in common, planning.
That is why many bands see me as someone strong, fierce and head strong, and who never compromises; and why should I? I havent come this far to compromise my music, my beliefs and the core of my dream; to help my fellow man and woman.
The song that people love most is Falling. It is a song about a boy who tells his father how he was lost in the dark.
He found love in strangers because his father was too busy working. He found friendship with drug dealers because he couldnt find friendship with his father who was too busy with the world.
It is a song thats very emotional, deep, and it even makes a lot of people switch it off sometimes because of guilt, because its real, truth, and truth sometimes hurts.
I had a lot of people tell me that. Imagine songs that do that to you. Thats why I have to be careful with my songs and write from the heart, and you reach the hearts of the people.
I have seen quite a lot of people cry when I finish singing one song, and this song is one of them.
England doesnt have great singers with powerful, meaningful lyrics, and maybe that is also why I am now making headway.
I am real and not a fake singer that has been touched and fashioned by the music industry in England.
This country and everywhere else needs something real, something that is from the heart instead of just lip service to sell records or CDs.
Q: Do you have great fans in the UK?
A: Yes, I have fans all over UK. I have been singing for quite for a few years with different bands and musicians, but also producing my own work, and I have my own newsletter, which gets my name around. I am also a writer on music and moral issues about what music should do. You must not only be a singer but also a leader, a businessman to make it happen in any industry. But yes, I have fans in nearly every city in England.
Q: What are your ambitions? Where do you think is your limit?
A: I am running out of time. It took 17 years to get to where I am and so much to do. My ambition is not about being a pop star. Pop stars, as everyone calls them, earns you respect one day and then people get fed up with you and you are forgotten. Nor do I want to be a legend. I just want to make it so I can go back to Yemen and open a school and fill it with computers. I want to hire some teachers and even get England to help with accreditation so the qualifications of Yemeni graduates from this school are acceptable in England and anywhere in world. There is making money and anyone can do that, but making a difference is totally different. I want to make a difference.
There is no limit. Limit is for those who are selfish and do for their own desires. I do not do what I do just for myself but to help others. My fans know me, not because I am a singer, but because I want to help and I open doors for anyone, whatever religion, culture or color they come from. No, there is no limit. There is so much to do, especially for my country, and I am not going to wait for the government of Yemen to do it either. Dont ask what your government does for you, but ask what you can do for your country, and get it done no matter how many times you fail. Do it even if it is helping the needy or your neighbors, working together to build a well or school. Do it yourselves because no one else will!
Q: Do your admirers know that you are of Yemeni-origin? Was your career affected so far by the fact you are an Arab, especially after Sep. 11?
A: No, and yes. Some do know me, but when I am on stage it is too good to be true for English people to think I am an Arab. In the streets, its different, and yes, I have been in many fistfights in Sheffield. Thats the name of the city I live in. I am patient, but I am not going to stand while someone thinks he can punch me. I fight back and I give what I get.
It has affected me a little, but it affected my mother the most. She wears hijab, so obviously, they can see she is Muslim, and she had her hair pulled, but they messed with the wrong woman. My mum is headstrong, and she doesnt take trouble from anyone. The Yemenis here in England are not soft. We all have been through a lot before September 11th. For example, we faced racism, verbal abuse and even racist police actions. So we had our share before the attacks against the USA, but we are not going to let that be an excuse for anyone if they think we are some soft community. We are loving people, but we are also very strong and big in England. We dont believe anything that comes on TV or newspapers here in the UK. We know exactly what that is all about!
Q: Have you ever thought of mixing Arabic language into your songs (as some Arab musicians have mixed Arabic with French in their Rai songs)?
A: I am nearly finishing an EP, which means five or six songs. I have mixed Abdul Halim Hafiz in one of the songs and will also be mixing Umm Kalthum, and Farid El-Atrache, and I will keep doing so. I am not much into Faisal Alawi. The elders are into him but not me. But yes, I am going to also mix Arabic style of strings in many of my songs soon. I am trying to hit Arabia too. I am not that bothered about pop charts in England, because a lot of it is rubbish anyway, and its not about music or songs but about artificial looks. For them, it is about product and packaging, but for me, I love lyrics, writing powerful songs with meaning and music that is powerful. If Yemeni people could send me tapes of noise in Yemen, like crowds of people, people talking in cafes, themselves singing, having fun, market noise and cars, etc., then I can sample them in my next album! Think of it as all of you becoming part of a dream, and I want you to become part of that dream.
Q: Thousands of young Yemenis are now reading your words in this interview. What message do you want to deliver to them?
A: I came from a poor background. I came from Yemen and I walked the same streets as you do. I am you, so I know what it is like to be a Yemeni. I tell you now; hold on to five things in your life and hold onto them as tight as you can;
1. Never forget who you are. You have rich history! You are Yemenis and Muslims. Whenever you come to England, do not be foolish enough to want to be like Brits, but be yourself. Stay true to your beliefs and be proud of who you are.
2. Love and respect your mothers and fathers, no matter what! Love and cherish them, even if they are pain at times. Believe me, they can be, but be loving to them and what is yours is also theirs, even if you havent seen them for half of your life. You only have one father and one mother. Life is short for disputes, so short!
3. You are the country, not the government. Only you can make it better, not them. If you want wells, come together and build them. If you want schools, then come together as one and build them. If you want equality, then treat your own woman first with the same respect as you would like to be treated, and God will be merciful to you. Women, they are our mothers, our sisters, our companions, our wives; and most of all, they are the backbone of any nation.
4. Do unto your fellow man what you want done to you. Whatever you do in this life, I promise you, it will come around to you. It may not happen in a year, in five years, but it will hit you when you are in desperation and it will hit you hard, so hard that you will grieve for a lifetime. Those who walk into your kingdom, let them walk in to see peace on your face, with love and with nobility within your hearts. Let them come back home saying the people of Yemen are indeed of noble descendants and truly loving.
5. Anything is possible in life. Nothing is ever impossible or unreachable. If you fail then try again, again, and again. What is life but a struggle for the soul, and struggle builds character and faith. When you reach to wherever you want to go and you climb that great wall, then remember to throw a rope back because there will be many walls bigger than the first that you climbed, and you are going to need help. When money comes your way, do not hold tight to it and do not throw it away either. Be wise and help your fellow brothers. For what you take with you in the grave is nothing, but your deeds. And may your brothers and sisters of Yemen be sweet and prosperous, as mine have now become Insha-Allah (God willing).
Q: Any other comments you may have?
A: If you wish to remember anyone, if you wish to praise someone great, then look up, raise your hands towards your chest, and raise your palms upwards to Allah the Most High and say Thank you Lord for keeping me alive, for the food I have, for the food that you give, for the air I breathe and for the religion that gives me peace of mind. Remember the One God, so that He remembers you. As for me, I am not worthy of remembering, so remember Him. It would be better, richer and more rewarding for you to do so in every way. And He loves those to ask of Him as many times as you want.
I finally would like to send my love to Uncle Ahmad and the rest of my relatives in Aden and Sanaa.
God bless Yemen and all of you.