Three years ago Umair Ali and his family were sitting around the table when they heard the familiar marimba ringtone on someone’s iPhone.
“I’m looking at my phone, my dad’s looking at his, and my mom is looking at hers,” Ali says. “It was an awkward situation.”
But it spawned an idea. Why not remix a ringtone that would be more distinctive? The communication technology major used his budding music production skills to alter the tone and added it to his phone.
“A lot of my family members loved it so I gave it to them, and they came back saying their friends wanted it, too,” he says. “I put it on iTunes, and from there it went crazy.”
Ali’s iPhone remix started climbing the charts, hitting No. 1 in Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway. In the United States, he has made the top 10 with multiple ringtones, outselling artists such as Beyoncé and Luke Bryan. Worldwide, his creations have been downloaded more than 150,000 times.
“It started off as a hobby and turned into something awesome.”
He credits his family for encouraging his love of music and his UT Arlington professors, including Brian Horton and Chyng-Yang Jang, for their guidance.
“There are great mentors here,” Ali says. “Our classes are highly project-based, and the professors work with you one-on-one all the time.”
Ali is enjoying his newfound success but realizes it won’t last forever.
“I’m saving my money, hoping to create some new things and build my own start-up,” he says. “Our major teaches us graphic design, Web communication, and how to make apps. That’s what I love doing.”
To hear and download the ringtones, search “iPhone remix” or “Umair Ali” on iTunes from a mobile device.