Grammy Winning Artist Embodies Multiculturalism
It's no secret that artists represent and express the culture that they live in. But what if your art had no boundaries? Grammy-winning world musician Omar Akram is the epitome of this multiculturalism. His music has been described as "a marriage of passion and grace, of adventure and relaxation, of beauty and raw earthiness." Born in New York to a UN diplomat, Omar grew up all over the world. He recently became the first Afghan-American to win a Grammy for his fourth album, "Echoes of Love." It has garnered him accolades from his ancestral locality, and positioned him as a cultural diplomat in his own right.
Omar began playing piano at the age of six while living in Prague (then the Czech Republic). "My father was always traveling because he worked for the U.N. I was a pretty hyper child, but every time my parents played music it would calm me down. They figured if we bought him a piano that might help with the hyperactivity." Now years beyond his myriad private lessons and brief stint at a music conservatory in Havana, Cuba, Omar is bridging worlds with his music and paving new roads for New Age/World artists. His impact has been compared to Khaled Hosseini's international bestseller novel "The Kite Runner." Both artists are actively mending cultural differences between the often opposed nations.
Omar has lived in various countries, including Afghanistan, the US, The Czech Republic, Cuba, France and Switzerland. His instrumental music keeps him removed from the potential confines of language. "The fact that it doesn't have spoken words helps; it opens up a whole world to my music. If you have singing or spoken word in any language it pidgeon holes you in that culture. Being instrumental I've found that it opens up quite a bit for me. I receive emails from people all over the world who actually see different images and have their own interpretations."
Beyond his international influences, Omar's Grammy-winning album "Echoes of Love" was also inspired by his marriage, as well as his now eight-month old daughter, Aria. Winning a Grammy is not an effortless feat. "Echoes of Love" was selected from over a thousand CD's from around the world. After his nomination narrowed him down to an exclusive pool of would-be winners, Omar made history when he became the first Afghan-American to win a Grammy. "I didn't realize it until I was on stage, that I might be the first Afghan to win this award ever. The people in the country have been reacting really positively; it's been an amazing experience."
Omar is now a resident artist at the House of Blues. His residency has made headlines because he is the first New Age artist to consistently fill up the venue, night after night. His interchangeable entourage of world-class musicians have included Peruvian guitarist Ramon Stagnaro (Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Luis Miguel) and Pedro Eustache (Paul Mccartney, Yanni) a woodwind wizard who plays over six hundred instruments.
Omar is currently booking shows at various arts centers in the US, and he has been invited to play in Malaysia, Tunisia and Africa. He is working on a new album to be released in August, and is gradually finding a home in the world of film composition.
- Chris Caplan
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