Tomal Hossain ’17 was in a small village in Malaysia, en route to Penang, when he met a most unusual band.
The village was Teluk Intan, and the band was Kumpulan Sima’ Getaran Hati, a pseudo-pop group that performs only Islamic music—and whose oldest member is a septuagenarian. In a small house, the band rehearsed a couple of songs for Hossain’s benefit.
“I was then taken to someone’s home for a formal dinner in which everyone ate Malay food, except for me, as I was provided with homemade chicken cutlet, coleslaw and French fries in honor of my Americanness,” he says. Next he interviewed the band, press-conference style, and enjoyed a “breathtaking, engine-powered canoe ride at the local river.”
The band’s leader explained to him that its lyrics consist entirely of excerpts from religious texts and the words of scholars—and that the rhythm and lyrics must, in Hossain’s words, “be able to touch one’s soul, solidly gaining control over one’s heart or feelings.” That’s no small task, but, as Hossain writes on his blog, the band “almost always makes at least one audience member at their events cry.”