Meet Mustafa Alyasiri, the Iraqi didgeridoo player

The UAE-based musician has shifted from heavy metal to aboriginal woodwind. (Supplied)
Updated 05 August 2019

Meet Mustafa Alyasiri, the Iraqi didgeridoo player

DUBAI: Mustafa Alyasiri first heard the sounds of the didgeridoo, one of the world’s oldest musical instruments, while playing a videogame in Baghdad when he was 10. The pulsating tones of the Australian aboriginal instrument felt, he says, like the call of the jungle. But it was not until almost two decades later, in 2015 at a music festival in Turkey, that Alyasiri was finally able to hold a real didgeridoo in his hands.

“I grew up listening to Western pop music and heavy metal, so the sound of the didgeridoo was entirely new and it touched something deep inside me. I felt connected to nature,” he tells Arab News. Haunted by its sound, Alyasiri —formerly the bassist and vocalist of disbanded Dubai-based metal band Tsvet Reptilia — set about teaching himself to play the didgeridoo via YouTube and online tutorials.

The Dubai-based musician has since taken the stage name Flash Didgeridoo, and has performed at several festivals, art fairs and clubs.

Alyasiri doesn’t just perform solo, either. “The didgeridoo fuses beautifully with several musical instruments. It sounds great with beat-boxing, pan drums, Djembe sounds and with meditation music,” he says. “(Even) during my solo performances, I try to play with back-end electronic music and the resulting effect is exhilarating.”

Alyasiri hopes that his attempts to mix the ancient didgeridoo with contemporary music will make more people in the region take notice of this unique instrument. Traditionally known as the Yidaki, the didgeridoo traces its origins back more than 1,500 years to the Yolngu people from the eastern Arnhem Land in northern Australia. They originally made their instruments — roughly one-to-three meters long — from termite-bored hollow eucalyptus tree trunks. Today, however, didgeridoos are shorter and lighter and are constructed from a variety of materials including solid timbre, fiber glass, plastic, ceramic and even leather. Alyasiri owns three of them.

“The one I carry around is made of plastic and very portable. The one I use for my performances is 300 centimeters long, and is custom-made in the UK from fiber glass with Mexican Day of the Dead inscriptions all over it,” he says.

The didgeridoo is easy to learn but difficult to perfect. Musicians need to learn a special ‘circular breathing’ technique which involves exhaling by using the muscles in their cheeks while breathing in through their nose. Different techniques can produce a range of sounds.

“As I had watched (so many) videos and tutorials, when I finally picked up the didgeridoo, I knew I could play it. I placed my lips on it and blew through them in a reverberating motion, letting my cheeks fill with air. But it took me several months of practice before I finally performed on stage,” he recollects.

For many of those in Alyasiri’s audiences, it is the first time they have heard a didgeridoo played live, and they often sit wide-eyed throughout.

“I have had a fairly good response from the audience at my events, they look intrigued and stay very calm, that shows that they are hooked to the music,” says Alyasiri, adding that he finds playing the didgeridoo soothing.

Alyasiri has traveled extensively in his quest to find and collaborate with other digeridoo players. He has played in Turkey, Sri Lanka, India and his native Iraq. One of his most memorable experiences took place on a trip to Rishikesh in India.

“I was playing the didgeridoo at a streetside location in this small town. Soon a small crowd started building around me, then out of nowhere a drummer joined in followed by a guitarist, and the ensemble music was electrifying and reaffirmed that music truly has no boundaries,” he says.

Next on his wish list is a trip to Australia — the land of the didgeridoo — where he hopes to truly immerse himself in the native tunes of an instrument that he has hopelessly fallen for.

Startup of the Week: Saudi baker and chef winning hearts of food lovers

Photo supplied
Updated 22 min 35 sec ago

Startup of the Week: Saudi baker and chef winning hearts of food lovers

  • Working over 15 hours a day and being self-taught was just the start; Essam is the interior and graphic designer, the marketer, the CEO and the chef at White Mountain

A Saudi bakery and restaurant business specializing in pastries is finding its way into Saudi hearts with a delectable selection of fine Italian, French, and Swiss foods.
Ahmad Essam, 28, a self-taught baker and chef, left a productive family business to create what is now one of the most prestigious bakeries in Alkhobar.
Essam set up his bakery and restaurant while working as a production engineer, selling tarts and cakes to his friends.
He was overwhelmed by the encouragement he received, and little by little Essam, his dream of running his own company emerged.
Working over 15 hours a day and being self-taught was just the start; Essam is the interior and graphic designer, the marketer, the CEO and the chef at White Mountain.
Baking French pastries such as croissants, macarons, mille-feuille, eclairs and tarts require a true artisan. Essam described the glory he feels when he bakes, saying: “Dealing with precise tips to get the real essence of French pastries and reaching a level to bake without recipes is a matter of experience and good knowledge. Being a real baker requires a lot of learning as it’s not only about mixing water and flour; its trick lies behind the process of fermentation that sometimes lasts for days.’’
Every once in a while, the young man distributes membership books to loyal customers. “On Valentine’s Day, we distributed 3,000 roses,” he added.
Essam is very passionate, and dreams of opening a cooking academy in Saudi Arabia so he can inspire other amateur bakers; he told Arab News about his future 12,000-square-meters cooking village project that he is aiming to create in Riyadh, “including a library that collects all cookbooks, a seasonal spice shop, a great lake garden, a pizzeria, glossary shop and more, all of which falls under one theme: Cooking.”
For him, business is an obsession and profession. “Chefs have their egos. They are dealing with a tricky job and they know what they are doing exactly. They do not accept comments or advice from other chefs,” he explained.
You can follow him for more information on White Mountain on Instagram: @wm.bakery.