Getting on board a “Peace Train”, the motif at the heart of the first release by 786AM (Aminah Mohammad), is something that should appeal to everyone. In a time of crisis, it is a sense of togetherness or community that should triumph rather than increasing division and polarisation.
Manchester-based Aminah is keen to address this and sees the value in community:
‘Manchester is an amazing city,’ she says. ‘The thing I love most about it is the immense amount of grittiness and inner strength in its streets, and the community spirit of the place is beyond spectacular.’
The essence of her song captures this mood, put together locally from a host of musicians and friends for a ‘Made in Manchester’ sound. It draws on the traditions of folk, both in sound and theme, and the backing of the Didsbury String Quartet help evoke the spirit of the late 1960s.
Despite the lyric ‘I’m not preaching about no science or religion’ there is certainly an uplifting spiritual feel to the song, a warm simplicity to complement the timeless message of togetherness in the same way as John Lennon’s “Imagine” or Bob Marley’s “One Love”.
The song also has the theme of starting again (‘the past is where the past belongs…’ she sings) and Aminah had her own life-changing experience after a holiday in North Cyprus where she visited Shaykh Nazimʼs Dergah in Lefke.
‘It changed my life,’ she says. ‘When I returned to England, I was a completely different person. In my heart, I knew that Islam is the way to peace, happiness and fulfilment in this life and the next, so I quit my job, changed my living circumstances, changed my appearance, and changed my daily activities in order to live my life more in alignment with Islamic principles.’
Aminah labels herself as a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar and piano on the song as well as providing vocals.
‘My mother bought me my first piano when I was four and I was classically trained from the age of five.’ she recalls. ‘My father bought me my first guitar when I was sixteen and I taught myself how to play. Singing has always been a major part of my life and itʼs what Iʼd class as my first instrument. Iʼd like to learn how to play the violin at some point as well!’
Aminah cites influences such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Yusef Islam as ‘they all write about peace, and they all tell great stories in their music that opens the hearts of their listeners; something that I try to emulate in all of my creations.’
“Peace Train” is out now.