Described as “a marriage of passion and grace, of adventure and relaxation, of beauty and raw earthiness,” Omar Akram’s eclectic sound and fusion of multicultural inspirations have earned him sought-after status as a Grammy-winning entertainer and resident artist at the House of Blues—no small feat for an Afghan-American world musician.
Though he was born in New York, young Omar was a globe trotter gifted early on with an eager mind and an ear for a song. The son of a United Nations diplomat, he began playing piano at the age of six while living in Prague (then the Czech Republic) because his parents thought it might focus him. “I used to be a hyper child,” he explained “and my parents got me a piano thinking that it’d mellow my mood. I loved taking piano lessons but what was most fun for me was after the teacher left, to sit there and play.”
From there, Omar and his roving family resided in far away locales such as Afghanistan, France, and Cuba. As a teenager studying at a music conservatory in the Caribbean, he said, “I really started to develop a love for Latin culture and music. I would sneak into Jazz clubs in Havana, and when the band would take a break, I'd go on stage and play the piano. They'd come back and tell me to stay.” Those experiences would prove to be integral to the early stages of his career, playing as a set musician with Top 40 bands in Los Angeles.
In 2002 he got signed to a recording contract, and Omar’s album “Opal Fire” was in the top fifteen on the (New Age) Billboard charts. But it was a decade later when “Echoes of Love” was nominated for Best New Age album that he realized how much originality and perseverance pay off in the music industry. “It wasn't really different from other albums I've done; I was just out there long enough. I think you really have to be out there for a while to kind of see what you're doing I've been out there long enough that they took notice. My music borders both new age and world music-- putting all of that energy into my music made it stand out from the rest of the genre.”
Omar also attributes the success of “Echoes of Love” to its ease of emotional connection, which he believes comes from a lack of lyrics and his successful collaboration with producer and co-writer Gregg Karukas. “If you have singing or spoken word in any language it pigeon 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.”
His cross cultural appeal has fostered a loyal following that got his live performances recognized as well. On the bustling Sunset Strip, Omar is one of few musicians that can call the legendary House of Blues home, as the first New Age musician to consistently fill up the venue as a HOB-appointed resident artist. “They found me,” he said. “Someone heard my music and they wanted to give me a chance to come in and see what I was able to do. Once the first show sold out, they asked me back. We sold out over and over again. I'm the first new age artist to be able to do that. Santana is a resident artist; I'm not even that kind of rock guy! It's a great venue, an intimate venue, and a lot of fun.” His ever-changing cast of world-class entertainers 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 in the studio working on a new album, to be released in August. Though he continues to make Hollywood his home and has added composing music for films to his passions, he plays cities coast to coast in the U.S. Still ever the voyager, the virtuoso has also been invited to perform in countries from Malaysia, in Southeast Asia, to Tunisia in North Africa.
To learn more about Omar Akram, visit omarmusic.com
Published on May 30, 2013