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Local talent, Nicolas Mustapha at an impasse

February 3, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“I’m not doing school any more for now,” said Nicolas Mustapha. “Online schooling is not worth it. Now I’m just doing … right now, it’s pretty difficult for musicians to get gigs. Venues are closed; even restaurants that are open can’t hire musicians.” 

Nicolas and his twin brother, Daniel are living in Toronto together with a view to going to school, which has not worked out well since the seeming inevitability of another lockdown in the future.

Nicolas commented further, “I’m still trying to figure it all out. Maybe, go to Berkeley (University of California). I want to do only music. There are in person classes but to go to the US is a big step. I couldn’t do any course that wasn’t music. Humber was the best direction but since going online, they have been cutting parts of the programs that were really great.”

He is teaching piano with in home lessons in Orangeville, just going to the homes and teaching there; everyone wearing masks and staying safe.

Daniel was doing visual arts at Humber but it was all on line so he stopped as well.

“Most individuals my age (21) are trying to figure out what they can do in the business we’re in,” Nicolas went on to say. “It’s much harder to break through – all those players already in the business for years are the first choice of any venues, so it’s harder than ever for young musicians.”

In his voice sounded the alarm of a restless society, “People are just so tired of online courses, shows, zoom. A friend suggested doing a show and his kids just didn’t want to do it.”

If Nicolas sounds deflated, he has good reason – along with an entire global population struggling with such long-term confinement. Once Theatre Orangeville began producing shows for online entertainment in September 2020, Nicolas was included in a number of them, beginning with a concert of his band, Tone Fusion in October, 2020. Theatre Orangeville staged the band’s performance and subsequently offered it as a ticketed online exclusive link for a couple of weeks. Over the ensuing months and presentations, Nicolas was engaged to perform as solo and to accompany singers and to play intervals during a play. Exciting stuff and it was added to by a Saturday morning gig with Leisa Way’s Way-to-go Productions during her series of outdoor concerts over the summer of 2021. Since then, there’s been little to do.

“What I love about our small community,” he was clear to say. “They have really kept the arts alive. I have a lot of gratitude for David Nairn and TOV – they’re like my family.”

It is the lack of infrastructure that trails along behind the many “steps back,” as he put it, that is frustrating. Waiting for a possible break right now, he is doing other things, writing music for Tone Fusion. They are hoping to get an ep or album put together. In fact, Nicolas does a lot of the writing for the group, working together with them on what and how they incorporate music. For that, he does much of the structural writing.

Looking to the future, he pondered, “I think we’re going to have take a good look at what’s happening and fight for things that people enjoy. The first to go is entertainment but we’ve followed all the protocols. At a certain point, we will – I don’t know – I think our community is very frustrated and very tired – from my perspective it’s very difficult – maybe I should go back to school for something else…”

Worried that the lives of young professional musicians and artists are on hold because they cannot progress with their lives, professional or otherwise; think about finding a home, starting a family. His concerns are the degrees to which the protocols have been politicized. 

It seems, “politically, any chance they’ve got, they shut it down -”

How to shift the structure is the question. “As a population, do we have to start asking ourselves if we’ll come to see that this is normal? I worry if I say something online and someone doesn’t like …but this has to change. People have to remind the government that we elected them; we’re losing small shops; we’re losing artists. We need to start saying ok, we’ve followed protocols. Now it is time to let us live.”

So, his comments also looked at the growing number of people who demand the right not to be vaccinated, becoming second class citizens of a possible two-tier society.

“I think it’s been so politicized; it’s not just about the science, it is about politics. You need to wear a mask [at least] out of common curtesy,” adding, “I have never been sicker than since I got my vax.”

The twin Mustapha men are gold medal winners in the 2019 National Karate Championships but at the moment, the karate schools are not open.

“Daniel has such a strong mind. He works out two to three hours a day to keep in shape.”

In spite of spikes of Omicron in the UK, restrictions are being lifted. Similarly, Nicolas believes, “I think we need to start opening things up. Eventually, it’s not about the vaccine – let’s keep people healthy. Opening these gyms up and getting people out and activating their nervous systems. I think masking is a necessary consideration for others in confined spaces – stores, buses, that sort of thing.”

Meanwhile, he still wants to have the opportunity to do what he does.

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