Saudi Arabia’s King of YouTube
By Alice Su, The Atlantic
Alaa Waidi’s wiggling eyebrows and bushy hair are as recognizable as the madcap backdrops to his YouTube videos: the Technicolor Post-it wall from his cover of Lorde’s ‘Royals,’ the floor-to-ceiling cardboard boxes from his interpretation of Rihanna’s ‘Stay,’ and the patterned mattresses from the makeshift sound room where he has paid tribute to Arab singers like Nancy Ajram, Cheb Khaled, and Amr Diab, among others.
“My studio is kind of crowded—that’s what happens when you work from home,” Wardi explains, grinning from behind his computer screen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Overthe last three years, the 27-year-old Saudi-Iranian has used this computer and microphone to become a Middle Eastern YouTube darling, garnering more than 36 million views of the 30-some songs he’s produced in Arabic, English, French, Korean, and Hindi. His covers include Slumdog Millionaire’s ‘Jai Ho,’ Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb,’ and the latest, a silly version of Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’ embellished with puppets, body percussion, and running commentary in the style of the minions from Despicable Me – only in Arabic.