Aslom Ullah's cover of the famous Shakira song "Waka Waka" is all over TikTok. Currently, it has almost 270k views and counting on YouTube, making it his most viewed video on his channel. But it's not the only "Qatarised" song he's done.
In this short interview, you'll get to find out more about Aslom Ullah - from how he started doing song covers to his latest project and what can people in Qatar expect from his "Qatari Music Vibes"!
AU: Words have such immense power that they can unite a nation and fill us with powerful emotions when we see them brought together. My name is Aslom Ullah, and I came to Doha from London to teach English. That was six years ago.
Since then, I have worked in 3 different schools. In fact, it was my students that inspired me to actually begin writing music when I asked one of my students if they had been to Red Velvet café in Katara-O-Nana. I adapted Camila Cabello’s popular song so that it celebrated Katara.
I followed this with a song celebrating expats called, ‘We Ain’t Ever Leaving Doha,’ and when this song was shared all over Doha, I knew I was onto something special. I had an opportunity to do something that had never been done: to celebrate life in Qatar through music that everyone here could enjoy and relate to.
AU: My background is not at all based on music. I am an academic, and since I came to Doha, I have done a yearly lecture at Qatar Foundation on using technology in the classroom.
In fact, the song I wrote, which went viral and even ended up on television, ‘Waka Waka In Qatar,’ was actually written after Shakira visited Doha to speak about education, so there is an interesting overlap there.
Someone sent me my song on Tiktok, and I was so surprised that it had sparked a dance-challenge, among other things. It’s such a strange feeling to see you have started a trend. When my song based on The Greatest Showman’s titular song was liked by Naomi Campbell, I thought I would pass out.
AU: I am a child from the 1990s, so I grew up with the Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Usher, One Direction, Harry Styles. Some of my favorites and artists that I aspire to include the Jonas Brothers, Bryan Adams, and Selena Gomez, Sia, and of course, Coldplay.
What matters most to me is when music can be used to convey a message, make the listener feel an emotion, and change the way we see each other and the way we see the world. There is a universality to it, in that people from all over the world can be united through music.
I feel that music can be one of those bonds that can unite us all, locals, and expats, residents, and visitors here in Qatar. This is as true now as it will be during and after the World Cup next year.
AU: In terms of the music videos, including ‘Blinding Lights in Doha’ and ‘I’m A Qatari Dude,’ I wanted to create videos using places people could relate to. Until this point, I had used still images of Doha and will continue to do so for my music. It is only when I feel that a video will help convey that message in the song even more that I decide to venture out and film, such as the Qatari Dude song, which was filmed in the summer and spent a few months in editing.
AU: I think the newly released song that I am premiering alongside this article, ‘Doha’s Got Me Falling In Love Again’ based on Usher’s famous song, best describes my life in Qatar now.
Being in lockdown during summer made me miss Doha as I stayed at home. That's why I was so grateful when I finally stepped outside because it made me fall in love with Doha all over again.
AU: Well, I did make a feature-length film set in Doha called ‘Lost In The Desert,’ which I put on my YouTube channel, and this was before my music. Perhaps I will turn my hand to writing a television show about life here.
One thing is for certain: I will continue to make music that celebrates life in Qatar so that when I look back at my life in my senior years, I can say I did something, and I made a difference.
AU: My message to Qatar's people is that while none of my music generates any monetary profit, the profit I get from this music is seeing people’s positive reactions and seeing people’s responses to it. Please keep sharing, and feel free to contact me through my Instagram channel and suggest songs you would like Qatarised.
This is a special place, and that’s coming from me, someone that was born and brought up in Central London. Cherish it, celebrate it, and jam to the music when you next go for a drive through Doha.
Watch this space: more music to come from Qatari Music Vibes!
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