Step Into Ben Lee’s Radical Playhouse
Ben Lee’s recent album, Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam For the Whole Family, is exactly as it seems — sing along-inspired melodies and instrumentation infused with a culturally educational message that serves to inform children and their families about the true nature of the Islamic culture through the lens of love, peace and acceptance. The album, released on March 3rd, serves to benefit the ACLU, as all the proceeds will be donated to the organization that constantly fights to protect each of our civil liberties. And while the album couldn’t come at a more relevant time, the reality check to Ben Lee may be who’s buying this: Parents? Children? Families? Or getting even more real, is anyone going to listen?
The tracks are major key and upbeat, with the lyrics clearly enunciated and brought to the focal point. Each song shares about either an Islamic tradition or peace in general in sing-along fashion, the words “love” and “unity” used superfluously. Some of the tracks, including “Rain” and “Assalamualaikum,” even include children’s voices in the chorus. Playful xylophones chime in every now and then to remind one of a lullaby. “Astagfirrulah” is played in Irish pub song fashion with bells and whistles to appeal to the kids. Closing track “Try Try Try” encourages the family to reach their hands to the sky and “try.” “Try what?” is the question we’re left with.
This album is one of those circumstances where the concept is much more interesting than the music. That’s not to say that there isn’t merit to these songs. When teaching children about acceptance, love and equality, sometimes a song really does say it best. Then again, this is clearly marketed toward families who are inherently accepting. Which begs the question, would a conservative family stop and pick this up for some road trip listening? We’re probably not quite there yet. Therefore, Ben Lee Sings Songs About Islam For the Whole Family may not be spreading his message quite as far as he’d like, but it’s certainly an invitation into his playhouse of radical love and acceptance.