Over the past four weeks, millions of people around the world have turned their attention to South Africa, where teams representing 32 countries have gathered to vie for the FIFA World Cup championship. It is the first time that the tournament is being hosted in an African country – a point of pride for all Africans that was evident during the opening ceremonies. But for a group of Ismaili musicians who performed at the World Cup Kick Off Concert, the occasion was particularly special.
“It all started off with this businessman, Karim Jamal, from Nairobi,” said Salim Merchant, who together with his brother Sulaiman, make up the Bollywood musical duo Salim-Sulaiman. “He wanted to make a song for the FIFA event, and we decided, why don't we make a song on Africa.”
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Listen to the song “Africa You Are The Star” that was performed at the FIFA Kick-Off Concert. Copyright: Merchant Music Publishing India
Composed by Jamal, the song Africa You Are The Star, was well received by the FIFA organisers, and was performed at the Kick Off Concert on 10 June at Soweto's Orlando Stadium by brothers Salim and Sulaiman, with renowned Kenyan performer Eric Wainaina and Nairobi local Alisha Popat, as well as South Africa's Loyiso Bala. The concert drew an audience of more than 30 000, and included performances by the Black Eyed Peas, Shakira and Alicia Keyes. It was televised around the world, garnering millions more international viewers.
“The song features a message of hope and confidence in the strength and potential of Africa and its people,” said Shelina Popat, whose company coordinated its production in Mumbai. “It projects the diversity and dynamism that is Africa.”
Salim and Sulamain Merchant are well known for their success in Bollywood, where they have worked on major films and have been recognised with prestigious awards, including the Filmfare and International Indian Film Academy awards. Alisha Popat, a journalism student, is remembered for her performances at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Golden Jubilee Games held in Nairobi in 2008.
Following the World Cup concert in Soweto, the group travelled to Nairobi where they performed their song at the official launch event of the Carnivore Grounds, attended by Kenya's Vice-President, Kalonzo Musyoka. The song has been a hit, noted Salim Merchant: “It just turned out to be a beautiful piece and everybody in Africa, including the FIFA committee, they just loved the song.”