Creative a cappella from the Middle East

Alaa Wardi is a 25 year old Iranian who has always lived in Riyad, the capital of Saudi Arabia. He only left the city for musical studies in Jordan. What is so special about Alaa Wardi? Alaa is a human musical instrument, who makes music with his voice and body. Alaa is a one-man band. He sings the words in different pitches, and imitates instruments with his mouth and hands. He then compiles the amazing results in a video. At times he plays the guitar in his shows. Alaa is a very creative a cappella artist, one of the first in the Arab world.

It all started when Alaa was looking for a way to share his music with others. There is not much room for artists in Saudi Arabia, and it is quite difficult to share one’s work with a larger audience. However, as of 2011 dozens of popular live shows and productions appeared in the country, which were then uploaded onto YouTube. These innovative and varied shows consist of comedies (Ala al-Tayer: stand-up comedy), La Yakhtar (He Can’t Choose), Eysh Elly (parodies), animations (Masameer), documentaries on socioeconomic affairs like Malob Aleyna (We Are Being Fooled), and even short movies (Monopoly). All of a sudden, there was much more room for creativity. As a result of YouTube’s success in Saudi Arabia, Alaa chose this platform to spread his music. A cappella videos are predominantly popular in Europe and the United States, but there was no equivalent in the Arab world. A chance for Alaa to do something refreshingly new, even though he plays the guitar.

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He decided to make his own music, with his own voice and all imaginable sounds he was able to make with his body. He perfectly masters the sounds of the guitar, bass guitar, percussion, trumpet and many other instruments. Even his beard turned out to be useful. The result is sometimes even better than the original.

Wardi is now a well-known artist in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and numerous Arab countries, but he also enjoys growing fame in the US. More than 5.7 million people have watched his videos. Rolling Stone Magazine even devoted an article to him, and record labels such as FURocious Music in Los Angeles offered him a contract.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRUsQxDSZDE&w=614]

His latest videos are not covers anymore and he uses his guitar more often. The special thing about his lyrics is that they are nothing more than randomly scribbled words. They have no clear topic, he leaves the interpretation to the fantasy of the listeners. His songs have a catchy urban flow, yet a recognizable Middle Eastern vibe as well.

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Alaa hopes to encourage other artists with his music. According to Alaa, the Arab world should produce more musical content. The talent is present already, but it is yet to present itself to the world.

Photos: Alaa Wardi
Translated by Mark Eijkman

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