x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rock 'n' roll roadie records mountain high

Lawyer lugs music gear up to the top of Kilimanjaro to help band perform world's highest gig for charity.

Sound Driver play what is believed to be the world's highest-altitude gig, on top of Kilimanjaro.
Sound Driver play what is believed to be the world's highest-altitude gig, on top of Kilimanjaro.

Ibrahim al Housani trekked through hailstorms and endured frostbite on his face and blisters on his feet to help take rock 'n' roll to record-breaking heights. The Emirati adventurer worked as a roadie last month for the British band Sound Driver, lugging a 10kg piece of sound equipment to the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The week-long trek up and down Africa's tallest mountain was part of a fund-raising stunt for Smile Train, a charity that provides cleft palette surgery to children in developing countries.

Sound Driver was successful in its attempt to perform what is believed to be the highest-altitude electric rock gig ever, at 5,896 metres. When he is not climbing mountains, Mr al Housani, 36, is a corporate lawyer for Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac). He volunteered for the climb and was selected after passing a physical examination that proved he was fit enough to make the climb. "The trip wasn't easy, but when you reach that summit and it's something that was difficult for you, it's a very nice feeling," he said yesterday.

As a father of five, it was important to help a children's charity, he said. "There are people with no money to do these [operations], not like in the UAE," said Mr al Housani. Part of his itinerary included visiting the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre to meet children and surgeons who have benefited from Smile Train's work. Adac was a key sponsor of the attempt. It covered Mr al Housani's travel expenses and provided him with a tent, a sleeping bag, food, warm clothing and trekking poles.

The expedition involved around 50 people. They got up at 4am on February 22 to make the eight-hour trek over rocky outcrops towards the Uhuru summit. Mr al Housani said the five-piece band's performance lasted about 45 minutes. "We danced with them. Everybody danced," he said. "Because we were so happy after this climb up, all of us - with the Tanzanian porters - it was like a celebration." The group then had to pack up 150kg of gear and descend before nightfall.

Mr al Housani said the adventure was one of the most challenging of his life. "On the summit it was around minus 25°C. We faced heavy rain, heavy hail and the rain made our rucksacks heavier," he said. His wife and children were stunned when they saw patches of frostbite on his face. "I came home to my family and they said, 'From where have you come? It's not our father'." The next extreme trip for the former UAE military man might be to take on Everest. "You only live once, so it's good to do something abnormal," he said. "I like this challenge."

In addition to funding operations, proceeds from Smile Train go towards training doctors to perform the procedure. The song performed by Sound Driver atop the summit, Chasing Rainbows, is available for download from iTunes for Dh4.37, with all proceeds going to the charity. The band will play in Abu Dhabi next month as part of the Smile Train campaign, which aims to raise more than Dh1.8 million (US$490,000).

@Email:mkwong@thenational.ae