Abu Dhabi: Despite suffering from a visual disorder that causes him to see only in shadows and light, Mustafa Saeed is an accomplished artist in his own right. The 27-year-old has been praised for his unique musical approach in playing the oud (a traditional Arabic instrument) and releasing two albums. He is also a teacher and a lecturer and is currently enrolled in a Phd programme.
"I actually have a degree in Literature and Linguistics, but I knew when I first stepped into the department that this was not my path. I later took correspondence courses in music from specialised institutes for the blind and enrolled in the House of Oud in Egypt. from where I graduated in 2001," Mustafa explained.
"I began teaching in 2002 and only began lecturing after receiving my Masters degree in Musicology from the Antoine University [in Lebanon] last year," he added.
The musician was in the capital as part of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage's (Adach) Sounds of Arabia festival, which runs until May 15. He presented a lecture at the Al Marmoura Auditorium on Wednesday and performed with Ahmad Khaboor on Friday.
"When Adach approached me to be a part of Sounds of Arabia, I thought I would just be performing. I was astonished to find that I would also be giving workshops and lectures … it was great that there were other aspects to the festival too," Saeed said.
But despite all of the success, Mustafa is still humble about the way he views not only himself but also his work. "I just play … and ever since I started performing, I've always received a mix of positive and negative feedback. But there is one comment that stuck with me, which was given by a critic after one of my performances in 2003. He said that I was talented enough not to imitate others. He advised me to find my own way. What shocked me was not the fact that he didn't enjoy my performance but that he gave his view in an article and not in person," he said.
It was this advice combined with his passion to explore different realms of the music world that helped him to develop his signature sound. "My approach is to develop oriental music from the inside … I would love to have constant opportunities for dialogues with other artists but unfortunately, I don't have the financial means to do that at the moment," Mustafa said.
Saeed also noted that he never saw his blindness as a burden and that others with disabilities should not be underestimated in whatever path they choose to follow in life.
"Eyes are not needed for people to produce music … it is in their fingers and their ears that they can grasp the intricacies of music. With all due respect for those who read music but I feel they are imprisoned by the notes when they perform, as opposed to simply creating music," he said.