With global fish prices soaring due to depleting stocks in the world’s oceans, one man may have the solution.
While 31-year-old Mohamed Shahid Nazir has built a reputation in an East London market for his ultra-cheap fish, it is his catchy sales jingle that has brought him a moment of global fame.
Fans cannot stop carping on about his “One-Pound Fish” tune, recorded on a mobile phone and uploaded to YouTube. With more than five million views, some might say you do not have to be a brain “sturgeon” to see he has a hit on his hands.
“He smelled like fish, but he was amazing,” said Yolanda Riley, a 20-year-old fan.
“I’m so happy. It’s a great surprise for me.”
– Mohamed Nazir, the ‘One-Pound Fish Man’
Pakistani-born Nazir has been signed by Warner Music in a bid to win the coveted Christmas number one spot on the UK charts. The honour is a real catch, prized even by some of music’s biggest stars.
“In these days, if I travel on the bus or the train or in the street, the people recognise me,” Nazir told Al Jazeera.
“The people say, ‘Your song is becoming famous, like Gangnam Style.’ I’m so happy, it’s a great surprise for me.”
The musical minnow is now in competition with some of the industry’s most-notorious sharks. The winners of successive series of Simon Cowell’s “X-Factor” programme have dominated the festive top spot in recent years, leading to an internet campaign “against corporate pop” in 2009.
That year, activists took to social media to encourage the British public to purchase “Killing in the Name” by US rap metal band Rage Against The Machine. That song, encouraging revolution against institutional racism and police brutality, sold more than 500,000 copies in a week, more than double the sales of the song released by X-Factor champ Joe McElderry.
If the funky fishmonger wants to follow in the footsteps of the rock rebels, however, he will have to challenge such super-groupers as Girls Aloud, One Direction, this year’s X-Factor winner James Arthur, and a re-release of Christmas classic “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.
The bass-heavy “One-Pound fish” has the support of Nazir’s 67-year-old mother, Kalsoom.
“I appeal to people in Pakistan and abroad to give this song as many hits as possible. I am fasting and saying special prayers for my son so that his song appears as number one,” she told the AFP news agency from her home in Pattoki, 80km southwest of Lahore.
Nazir says he is proud to have the support of his family and friends.
“They are so excited,” he told Al Jazeera. “My wife is happy, my family is happy, because they know singing is my passion from my childhood hobby. They are saying: ‘Your dream is coming complete now’.”
Britain’s The Sunday Times reported this month that Nazir is under investigation by the Home Office over a potential breach of the terms of his student visa after he reportedly abandoned his school to work at Queen’s Market in Upton Park.
This season’s most unlikely musical sensation told Al Jazeera that he was soon to have his work permit secured, although that may require leaving the country first.
While officials flounder over whether he has the right to work in the UK, fans have been snapping up and downloading copies of the single.
Nazir’s new video shows him dancing Bollywood style, madeover in a sharp suit, and with no “mullet” hairdos in sight.
The Christmas chart is scheduled to be announced at 1900GMT on December 23.