Some write and compose with the perception of global conquests. Others visualize the shores of exotic islands as they create them with passionate melodies. This is the way we dream. However, for Omar Akram it’s a reality engraved into his memories, which has molded and developed his character, craft and style.
As a son of a United Nations diplomat, he grew up focused and educated, not only by the pages of an educational structure, but by life travels themselves culture to culture, the expeditions he traveled had unknown wisdoms around each corner. Today, his music allows those tales, travels and emotions to be revealed in hopes of their reality being passed on to those who inquire.
Omar’s music and compositions are untainted entertainment, but more so a catalyst to a message, each message being one of special significance. Note that his voice is not so much the deliverer of insight and theory, yet his acoustic grand piano along with the ivories feeding from his heart is. An exquisite road we travel along with the sign post that reads simply Secret Journey, his 2007 self-proclaimed expedition into sound.
As a pianist, Omar’s strokes extract emotions, the Akram composition is the script. Your mind creates the journey. It is a perfect storm into the world music genre. This is what great music is about: the interactive marriage of the artist versus the listener, bonding their collective souls!
His words are few, but the points are there. Omar Akram has orchestrated an absolute treasure embraced in a jewel case. Many artists of New Age/World Music perform exceptional work, but few capture an expedition so perfectly dramatized in sound. The first spin you take on the journey is just the launching of future roads less traveled.
Look through the word and spin the Secret Journey as you go between sets with pianist, composer, arranger and guide, Omar Akram
JazzReview: Secret Journey is about all our journeys in life that have, or even have not, occurred. The inspiration, however, first came from you. Talk about your journeys as a son of a United Nations diplomat and how this project was influenced by them.
Omar Akram: I was very fortunate to travel as a child to different countries, and it certainly has influenced my music. My goal is to combine various cultures into my music and, of course, that’s what I tried to do on Secret Journey, and on my previous projects.
JazzReview: In prior projects you were known only as Omar. However on this venture, you use your full name Omar Akram. Can you talk about the change?
Omar Akram: Using my first name only became a bit confusing and there are too many Omar’s out there. So at the start of this project, I decided to incorporate my last name. I have to say that it has worked very well and the transition has been very smooth.
JazzReview: Many consider your music New Age, however, I see it also as World Music. What is your opinion on this classification?
Omar Akram: I agree with you. I have tried to incorporate a "world" element into my music. I don’t think classifications matter so much. To me, the most important thing is if the music is communicating my thoughts and feelings to the listener.
JazzReview: Your first album was Opal Fire. Your second project was Free as a Bird. Now we have your collection Secret Journey. Please go into detail on the similarities and differences of your first three adventures.
Omar Akram: Each album reflects a particular time in my life. I tried with each project to grow as an artist. So for me,it’s very hard to compare the albums, but what I can say [is] that they each have something very unique to offer musically.
JazzReview: At times during this spin I felt an operatic surge to the tempo, as if a story of passion is reaching out to be told. I know this to be true from your comments and expressions in the past. Do you approach all music this way and life as well?
Omar Akram: In my opinion, you have to have passion for everything that you do in life and that’s the way I approach life and my music.
JazzReview: Talk if you will, talk about your partners behind this project. All are artists in their own right, but sound very unique when they play with you. Talk about them and the influence they had on Secret Journey.
Omar Akram: I had the privilege to work with some of the best musicians in the world. The album is produced by Gregg Karukas, who is a notable recording artist on his own. Ramon Stagnaro is on guitar and has worked with Josh Groban and Andrea Boccelli. Ardeshir Farah is on guitar from the famed duo "Strunz and Farah." Charlie Bisharat is on violin and has worked with Yanni and John Tesh. Pedro Eustashe plays flute and has worked with Paul McCartney and Ravi Shankar. Ron Wagner is on percussion and has worked with Ottmar Lebert for the last nine years. The project is executive produced by my good friends Mike Vasilomanolakis and Terence Yallop.
JazzReview: What do you feel is the biggest success on this project? In other words, what came out of this project that seems to overshadow all else associated with its recording?
Omar Akram: I think the facts that we brought so many amazing players together and had Gregg Karukas as the producer. It really exceeded all my expectations.
JazzReview: I have to say Omar, each cut on this disc had a positive impact on my listening experience. The music seemed to change the atmosphere around me with each change in tempo and key stroke. Most of the album you composed. How was the experience for you and what did you draw out of it?
Omar Akram: Thank you for saying that. I really enjoyed composing these tunes and the reaction that I am getting from my listeners has been very positive.
JazzReview: Would you have changed anything after Secret Journey was finalized?
Omar Akram: Well, as an artist, you always want to change things, but overall I feel content with the results.
JazzReview: "Mirage" has such a Middle Eastern appeal, but more so is the hypnotic resonance it has, which overcomes one's insight at the moment of listening. Talk about its creation and the feedback you’re getting on this piece.
Omar Akram: The feedback on this tune has been tremendous. I tried to blend an element of electonica with a Middle Eastern feel. It seems to work quite well.
JazzReview: The angelic intro to "Angel of Hope" sprouts the curious nature within the listener. A message is what stirs in the mind. Is there a message to be gotten from this piece? If not intentional or planned, what would be that emotional message set forth by you?
Omar Akram: I actually composed this piece a couple of years ago and decided to incorporate it into this album. Hope is something that we need more of in this world.
JazzReview: "Gypsy Spirit" was the only piece not composed in total by you. How was that experience for you? What was the collaboration like for you three? With the insight and deep thought that goes into all your music was it difficult to share and compromise those moments within the creative process?
Omar Akram: It was very enjoyable to bring other songwriters into the mix. I like to work with other great artists.
JazzReview: Tell us about the impact Dr. E. Mike Vasilomanolakas had on you then and now?
Omar Akram: Dr. Mike has been a very big influence in my musical career and also as a friend. He has been executive producer on all my albums including Secret Journey.
JazzReview: You state, "Every culture I have encountered has influenced my music," which from being an avid fan, is very true. However, the world has changed and cultures do as well, yet your music still seems to be hopeful. What allows you to still remain so wishful and positive?
Omar Akram: I think it’s very important to stay positive and optimistic in this world regardless of what’s happening. I try to convey that in my music.
JazzReview: Talk about "Seven Secrets" and its inspiration?
Omar Akram: "Seven Secrets" was inspired by the Seven Wonders of the World. I am very intrigued by some of the great things that have happened in our history.
JazzReview: What can the future hold for you on your next venture?
Omar Akram: Not sure yet. Right now I am very busy promoting Secret Journey.
For more information go to www.omarmusic.com and experience the diverse talents of Omar Akram.