Mustafa is a musician, poet and director whose first collection of songs, When Smoke Rises, proved that his power as an artist is most potent in his own hands.  Already a sought-after writer and collaborator, When Smoke Rises lifted Mustafa into a rare, singular and borderless level of artist, one who works in traditional forms but with the vision and imagination to command the zeitgeist. With last year’s “Name of God” and now, with “Imaan”, Mustafa opens a new chapter with focus, love, and exhilarating proof that his ascent has just begun.
Here is an artist writing and singing what it is, for him, to be whole: to be a Black Muslim man; to be an artist, and to be unapologetic. And while myriad artists write through comparable themes —  faith, love, grief, judgment — precious few find the way to do it with both clarity and care. The songs go deep enough to be scary, almost destabilizing.  But even when it’s heartbreaking, and it can be brutally so, Mustafa’s music is protective, nourishing, and tender.
Mustafa hails from Toronto’s Regent Park, and was raised there in a devout Sudanese household. He began writing poetry at the age of 12, and accolades came quickly; Mustafa was named Poet Laureate of the Pan American Games, appointed to Trudeau’s Youth Advisory Council, anointed as a generational voice before he even approached young adulthood. After cutting his teeth writing and collaborating with some of pop’s most recognizable names, Mustafa began to stretch, creating his first documentary film and beginning the work that would become When Smoke Rises. Press and praise was effusive, and maybe best articulated by the New York Times’s Jon Caramanica, who described the collection as “bracing and beautiful, hopeful and desperate, a solemn prayer for lives that never reached their potential, and a determined act to render their stories with beauty and care.”
Mustafa describes his newest single, “Imaan” as “a love song between two people in search of God and purpose. Two Muslims journeying through their love of borderless western ideology and how it contradicts with the modesty & devotion they were raised in.” Its verses sing through that contradiction with a plainspoken yearning and a simple, insistent rhythm guitar. But on the chorus Mustafa takes flight, with airy major key moments and an agile, swinging melody set against the song’s loneliest lines. The effect says both things: that love can feel certain, even when it’s not.  “Imaan sonically represents this tussle too,” he continues, “the Sudanese strings and Egyptian oud woven into the bed. American folk chords and drums- this tapestry, this collision is the song is the romance is the person Mustafa is. How it’s never enough, or too much…It’s about the way faith swings beneath Mustafa and Imaan like a rope. How cultural tension and bias and racism can inform and dismember romance.”