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Persevering as a Nasheed Artist: Learn From Ilyas Mao at the Largest Muslim Conference in Ottawa This Saturday

Persevering as a Nasheed Artist: Learn From Ilyas Mao at the Largest Muslim Conference in Ottawa This Saturday

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Ilyas Mao is a Somali-born Canadian nasheed artist, composer, songwriter, and producer.

The topics of his inspirational and uplifting songs range from social justice, family values, and spiritual guidance. Ilyas's wealth of experience has led him to confidently engage and inspire audiences of all ages and cultures around the world.

Aside from performing, Ilyas has produced soundtracks for feature films, cartoons, and documentaries using only his voice.

Ilyas Mao will be performing at the I.LEAD Conference in Ottawa on Saturday, March 16h.

Muslim Link interviewed Ilyas about his journey as a nasheed artist.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Somalia. My family immigrated to Canada when I was 8. We settled in Guelph, Ontario where I've lived ever since and I have a family of my own here now. Guelph has changed a lot over the years. It has become much more multicultural.

I studied Marketing at the University of Guelph and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce.

I have always been creative, whether it be drawing or designing things. But I also always loved music but it's only really been since 2015 that I started to focus on nasheed and a capella music (music produced with only voices).

How did you discover that you wanted to be a nasheed artist?

I have always been musical. For example, I was able to figure out how to play a piano just by eye.

My parents told me that when I was like 2 or 3 years old I would hum along or sing along to classical Somali music, songs by Omar Duule and Zulfa. I couldn't really talk at that age but I would just sing along in gibberish and I was able to pick up the melodies. I'm glad my parents told me about that because now I see the same behaviour with my own son, he hums along with my nasheeds and he can follow the melody and the rhythm.

I was heavily influenced by rap and hip hop music but I knew the lyrics were vulgar. I'd ask myself 'Why can't the lyrics be clean? Why can't they be meaningful?'. I was always searching for music that was more positive that could inspire others and help others.

In 2015, I produced the soundtrack for Boonaa Mohammed's film, 'Tug of War'. He recognized my talent and he encouraged me to pursue a capella music and nasheeds and to use my talent to make positive music to inspire Muslims.

I figured I have the talent, why don't I use it for the right reasons.

How do you create your songs?

It's always a collaboration. I produce the entire song without the lyrics. I know the entire song, the melody, the harmonic scale. I know the emotions that inspire the song, but I need help with the actual words. So I produce the song in gibberish. Then I give it to my collaborations and they decipher it and translate it into real words. I tell them the emotions in the song and what I think the song should be about, and then they write it.

Boona Mohammed is my main collaborator. I work on the sound production for his films and he helps me with the lyrics for my songs.

To check out Ilyas Mao's nasheed concert at the I.LEAD Conference in Ottawa this Saturday, purchase tickets online here.

To learn more about Ilyas Mao visit his website.

This article was produced exclusively for Muslim Link and should not be copied without prior permission from the site. For permission, please write to

Read 7537 times Last modified on Wed, 13 Mar 2019 09:34
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Chelby Daigle

Chelby Marie Daigle is Muslim Link’s Editor in Chief and Coordinator. Under her direction, Muslim Link adopted its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy so that the website strives to reflect the complexity of Muslim communities in Canada. She knows that she fails to do justice to this complexity every day but she will continue to try to improve as she recognizes the frustration of being both marginalized in the mainstream and also marginalized in Muslim communities. As Coordinator, she works to build relationships with Muslim and mainstream organizations and manages the website's social media, event listings, and directories. She organizes regular Muslim Link gatherings. She also works closely with the Publisher to find ways to keep Muslim Link sustainable. Find her on Twitter @ChelbyDaigle