IslamicTunesNews | Malaysia pushing music up the charts in Islamic Economy ecosystem

Despite the widely recognized rise of the online- and tech-savvy YUM demographic (Young Urban Muslim), a global Islamic digital entertainment provider has yet to emerge. UK-based Alchemiya is a video-on-demand platform that has been dubbed the ‘Muslim Netflix’ but other Islamic-focused entertainment sectors remain largely untapped.

In Malaysia, a new online marketplace is trying to go viral and tap into the significant demand for spiritual music that has prompted a new wave of Islamic-oriented entertainment.
Founded late last year, IslamicTunes is a self-styled halal entertainment digital content marketplace. It claims to attract 30,000 visitors per day and says it now offers about 20,000 items in music content. The site also provides digital content for video, talks, movies, and events, primarily focusing on spiritual and Islamic-oriented entertainment.
“If you go to most digital music content providers’ sites, you will find that there is no dedicated segment for Islamic music,” IslamicTunes founder and CEO Rozman Abas told Salaam Gateway. “If there is, it is placed under the world music genre. There is a segment for K-Pop, but none for Islamic music.”
Abas believes that clearer standards and procedures on what to categorize as Islamic music and entertainment will help to create more awareness of the genre among retailers as well as consumers. He is planning to organize an Islamic Music Festival this year with the objective of gaining more insights and developing participation and content development in this burgeoning industry.
The late 1990s saw the rise to fame of a nasheed band in Malaysia called Raihan under an international record label, Warner Music. Raihan has toured all over the world and has been well received for its soothing vocals and mainly percussion-based instrumentals. The band has so far released 11 albums and sold 3.5 million units of its albums worldwide, making it the most successful Malaysian group in terms of record sales.
“Raihan’s success is a big milestone in Islamic-based music,” said Abas. “But there has not been any big push for others to ride on the success. There is no specific platform to create this opportunity [either].”
For his part, Abas has been a significant presence in the Malaysian entertainment industry for three decades. He initially produced rock music before he ventured into producing a zikir (short prayer) recitation record. The record was a hit, selling almost a million cassettes at that time.
His and IslamicTunes’ participation this year at the upcoming annual MIHAS, or Malaysia International Halal Showcase, in Kuala Lumpur, signals a move for Islamic music and entertainment into the wider Islamic Economy ecosystem. Now in its 13th year, MIHAS has always had a substantial focus on the food industry but is slowly expanding its remit to other Islamic Economy sectors. 
IslamicTunes will be overlooking a dedicated showcase at MIHAS for its ‘Islamic oriented entertainment’ series that will run over the four days of the event, which starts on Mar 30. There will be performances from talents from many countries, and the highlight is a 30-piece German orchestra that is expected to perform during the opening ceremony.
The mainstreaming of Islamic music and entertainment into the Islamic Economy ecosystem is welcomed by Malaysia’s former hip hop queen Shazrina Azman, better known by her stage name MizzNina. She told Salaam Gateway that as a Muslim woman who has been blessed with a flair for and confidence about public performance, she has decided to channel her gift to help spread Islamic knowledge.
MizzNina gave up singing at the height of her career after she performed her hajj in 2013. Since then, she has been producing and hosting Islamic shows and poetry readings to share her journey in re-discovering Islam.
“I’m not a scholar to touch on [what is] halal and haram … what I know is that I’m doing what I do to spread Islam in a way that is acceptable and good and in ways which I am most comfortable with as long as it is done in a most respectful and modest way within the Shariah,” she said.
She sees a place for young Muslim women in the growing Islamic entertainment scene. “My advice to young, creative Muslim women out there is to keep creating and never give up. Use the power of media to spread good and not anything else. Believe in yourself and do it for the sake of Allah, in sha’ Allah you won’t go wrong,” she added.
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