A while back I introduced you all to the track The portrait by the composer Omar Rafaar, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the song a bit better.
What are your thoughts on artist names?
I thought about this for a while but I wanted to use my real name at the end instead of using a generic artist name, just made more sense since the music I am writing is truly from within.
Where are you from? And where do you live?
I am from Cairo, Egypt and live in Victoria, BC in Canada. I moved around a lot when I was younger from Europe to Egypt to the US and then finally to Canada.
How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I started out playing guitar at the age of 10 and then at around 13 I switched over to playing drums. I also starting recording and playing around with recording equipment and using a midi keyboard very early on. That allowed me to use the piano a little more and learned how to play because of my writing. I only really started to play piano 5-6 years ago but for me it is more a composing tool than an instrument I am good at. I can play a little bit of guitar, piano and drums just enough for me to be able to express myself with them.
Tell us about how you started playing music.
I started at a young age and was motivated by watching my father play the guitar. He would always come back from work and play and sing so I naturally followed. I became highly passionate about music and played in a lot of different bands growing up.
How long have you been making piano music?
Piano music is a recent thing for me, I have always been putting music together and playing around and composing. I write a lot of different types of music but only recently decided I wanted to make a minimalistic album that has only real organic instruments. I also love the sound of a muted piano with the felt on it. It gives it a very intimate sound that really inspired me to write the album with it as its focus.
Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I started out playing around with recording software and just putting things together. I always had the difficulty of finishing pieces that I wrote and then slowly I got over that and started to really push myself to finish any track I started. I also love hearing tracks in different and new genres that challenge me and inspire me to try and write and learn to make it. That is why I love film music as it is very versatile and brings in a new challenge always.
What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
These days I am listening to a lot of Olafur Arnalds. His music is a huge inspiration on me and the album I just wrote. He has taught me that you don’t need to over complicate music for it to be impactful. He really knows how to connect and move an audience.
Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I would have to say the track “Time is Lost’ from my album. I actually don’t know a lot of peoples songs on the piano and usually just use the piano as a composing and inspirational tool. I always sit and play “Time is Lost” whenever I sit at the piano for some reason.
What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I think people are doing a good job of breaking rules in music these days. I also think we are seeing the listeners not really caring about rules which allows a lot more innovation. Instruments are tools and fuel inspiration even if they are not used in a conventional way. The music that stands out the most is the ones that are doing something really different.
How do you record your music?
I record everything at my home studio. I come from the studio background, working at different studios in my career so I have a decent setup where I can record and do everything at my own place.
Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I like sampled instruments for what they are. I am always impressed with them and use them when writing tv/film work. I do think they have huge limitations and we should be careful using them. They are great for sketching and coming up with ideas. The album “A Way Home” that I just finished was fuelled by me being tired of writing with virtual instruments all the time. I wanted to go the complete opposite and write an album that used zero sampled instruments. I think it is really important to use real musicians and sampled instruments don’t have the realism and life that real players do.
Anything else you want to share?
I am really excited to put out my first solo album “A Way Home” on February 7th. It was inspired by the nature in the area where I live in the pacific north west. The album is a concept album and is really meant to be heard in order as if it is one long piece.
And the usual question my five year old son once asked me:
Where do all your songs come from?
That is a great question. For myself, I am inspired by sounds and instruments. I can pick up an instrument and just use it for some sounds that really inspire a piece of music. Different instruments will get me to write very differently and they will fuel the inspiration. Being outdoors with wide open spaces and beautiful surroundings make it easy for me to write as well. I definitely value nature and our surroundings and need to go out often.
Thank you for participating in my Behind the piano series Omar!