In New Jersey, Shiite Teenager's Voice Captivates the World

April 10, 2004

Source: The New York Times

On April 10, 2004 The New York Times reported, "He makes grown men weep with his singing. Fans set up Web sites and address him as 'Master' and 'Dear Brother' in e-mail messages from thousands of miles away. Powerful clerics are said to know his work. But in this town near the George Washington Bridge, Mesum Abbas Naqvi inhabits the role of a typical suburban teenager, playing football and Xbox (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a favorite), watching Mr. Bean DVD's and "chilling" with his cousins. Mesum Abbas, as he is known professionally, is 14 and something of a prodigy in the world of Shiite Islam. Since the age of 2, he has been a reciter of nauhas, the ritual lamentations that accompany Shiite devotions around two holy days of the faith, Ashura and Arbaeen, which is marked this weekend. His cassettes, CD's and DVD's sell all across his family's native land, Pakistan, where 20 percent of the population of 140 million is Shiite. Mesum is also in demand for live performances at Shiite mosques in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere in the United States. 'I feel good about myself when I do this because I'm spreading the word,' said Mesum, who is given to the monosyllabic answers of a teenager with a shadowy mustache and recently changed voice. But any awkwardness melts away when he sings."