News / Middle East

Muslim-American Rapper Bridges Faith and Music

Cyrus McGoldrick aka the Raskol Khan
Cyrus McGoldrick aka the Raskol Khan

Multimedia

Arash Arabasadi

Music and religion often go hand-in-hand. The traditions of many religions bring song and prayer together to engage followers of all ages and faiths. This type of crowd participation helps create the religious experience. Often, the American popular music scene is at odds with the beliefs of devout, religious followers. But, for one American rapper, the mixing of those two worlds serves as a tool to bridge faiths, cultures and stereotypes.

Where else but in the heart of New York City could one find a Muslim, American, Irish-Iranian rapper?

His name is Cyrus McGoldrick. He says he tries to channel all of the cultures that he’s been a product. When he steps on stage he does so by assuming the role of Raskol Khan.

"The Raskol Khan is a character that's very much me; but it's also everyone: as a young man in the city trying to do the right thing, but fighting with himself and fighting with the powers that be."

A student at nearby Columbia University, Raskol Khan is a devout Muslim who prays five times a day.

"I'm always careful to say that I don't do Muslim rap, but I am a Muslim rapper, because I'm very proud of my practice; I'm very proud to be a practicing Muslim in America. I think New York City is a unique melting pot of cultures. So in that way, we can have a lot of spaces for us - a lot of spaces for Muslims - to live and interact in."

And that is where the music comes in for Raskol Khan.

"I try to show in my music that we're all humans. We all want a lot of the same things. For a practicing Muslim - but I think for any person of faith - it's important to show that our decisions definitely refer back to an idea of right and wrong. Those core concepts, principles, if they come through in the music that resonates with people, that unites rather than divides. People can see someone who identifies as a Muslim; who is proud to be an American."

His abilitiy to unite brings a smile to his proud parents' faces. His mother, Nikoo McGoldrick call him the United Nations of music. His father, Jim, takes pride in the hard work his son puts into his music and enjoys the pleasure it brings to other people.

Many kids have hopes of superstardom. It's a common theme in American pop culture, but few would call the life of a celebrity "pious." It seems those two worlds would be at odds. But in Raskol Khan’s world it’s a chasm that can be overcome.  

"Being a musician certainly involves being present in some venues and maybe around certain substances and people that a Muslim who wasn't on that scene would try to avoid. Being a musician and being a Muslim can go very well together. It really has to do with what your concept of being a musician is. If it's about the music, then that's one thing; if it's about the parties and everything else afterward, then that's a whole other story."

In Raskol Khan’s case, it’s most certainly about the music.

When not busy on stage or devoting himself to Middle-Eastern, Asian and African studies, this 20-something Rhode Island-native gives his time to the community, teaching reading, writing and basic literacy skills at a program called Community Impact.

“These skills will help people a lot in the future, inshallah. Anything that I can use my skills for to pass to them on, that's just a win/win. If I can make my living helping people and staying involved in the community, then that's perfect for me. My love for people; my love for family and friends; my love for what I study; the jobs that I go to… that gets me up out of bed every day by itself. I'm blessed to love everything that I do. I'm crazy busy and I'm always running, but I'm very lucky that everything that I do; that I'm running from one thing to another, I like all those things," says rapper Raskol Khan.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs