Remona AlyThursday 17 September 2020 BBC Radio 2
Kool & the Gang, Celebrations and Seashells
I read an article the other day that jokingly asked, “What do you call a wedding DJ who doesn’t own a copy of ‘Celebration’ by Kool & the Gang?” The answer – “Doomed.”
The article was in fact a tribute to Ronald Bell, co-founding member of Kool & the Gang, who died last week at home, aged 68. In previous interviews, he revealed that the inspiration behind the song Celebration, actually came from the Quran. Ronald, who converted to Islam in the 1970s and adopted the Muslim name, Khalis Bayyan, had been reading verses about the creation of the first man, and how the angels gathered together to celebrate Adam’s holy birthday bash.
I’ve heard the global classic belted out at countless weddings and birthdays, having no idea about the story behind it. But listening to it now, is like hearing it with new ears. It took Ronald’s death for me to take proper notice of his most famous song.
I recently took out my late father’s old satchel briefcase. I didn’t pay much attention to it when he was alive, as it dozed in a corner gathering dust and age, the wrinkles in its worn leather telling stories I never listened to. Only recently did I unclasp its 55-year-old buckles, to read through all the documents it held, revealing the milestones in dad’s journey from India to Britain – milestones that laid the foundation for my own path.
It brought so many layers of meaning to something that I thought wasn’t really relevant to me, until I had bothered to delve a little deeper.
“Those who look for seashells will find seashells; those who open them will find pearls,” said Imam al-Ghazali, one of the most influential philosophers of the medieval Muslim world.
It can be simpler to skim the surface, but I reckon seeking hidden truths can bring real treasure into our lives. These times have made us all dig deeper, to make sense of the challenges we face. I’m keeping faith that in every hardship there must be a blessing, and that every hidden pearl will have its day in the sun. When that time finally comes, there really will be cause for celebration.