Star Spot with Omar Akram, GRAMMY-Winning Pianist, Composer, and InterContinental Music Awards Judge
From Afghan-American Roots to Grammy Glory – Music, Challenges, and Moments of Beauty Unveiled
Welcome to this episode of Star Spot! I’m Merry, and in this series, I interview InterContinental Music Awards winners and insiders, bringing you exclusive insights into the music industry. Today, I’m thrilled to have with me InterContinental Music Awards Judge, Omar Akram.
In 2013, Omar Akram made history as the first Afghan-American artist to clinch a Grammy® Award for Best New Age Album with his mesmerizing creation, “Echoes of Love.” Fast forward to the present, and Omar stands at the pinnacle of a remarkable 20-year career since the release of his debut album, “Opal Fire.” His journey, marked by Billboard charting recordings and international tours, has captivated audiences in the U.S., England, France, and most recently, China.
“Moments of Beauty” soared to #1 on Amazon New Age hot new releases, it has become a contender for this year’s Grammy Award in the New Age, Ambient, or Chant category. Join us as we delve into the extraordinary musical world of Omar Akram, a distinguished judge at the InterContinental Music Awards, and explore the magic behind his creations, the essence of his judging philosophy, and the evolving landscape of music competitions. Let the symphony of insights begin. The full interview is also available on Instagram – click here to check it out.
Omar Akram, for those just joining us, could you please introduce yourself and share a bit about your remarkable musical journey?
Certainly! Hello everyone, I’m Omar Akram, a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, pianist, and composer. Back in 2013, I made history as the very first Afghan-American artist to secure a Grammy Award for Best New Age Album with “Echoes of Love.” Currently, my latest creation, “Moments of Beauty,” is in the running for another Grammy Award in the New Age, Ambient, or Chant category. It’s an exciting journey, and I appreciate your support.
Winning a Grammy for “Echoes of Love” is a significant milestone. How do you believe this recognition has shaped and influenced your musical career, especially considering the unique background you come from?
Winning a Grammy award is a game-changer, no doubt. Beyond the personal accomplishment, it holds immense significance, especially considering my background. In 2013, this recognition reached a new level of acceptance for individuals from my cultural background. The award hadn’t been given to anyone with my background before, making the nomination alone a noteworthy achievement.
Congratulations on your Grammy nomination this year for “Moments of Beauty.” Can you share some insights into the inspiration behind this latest album and what it means to you personally?
Thank you! “Moments of Beauty” is a special collection for me. It draws inspiration from a spirit of loving reflection and contemplation, capturing personal cherished memories. Yet, it also holds a universal quality that resonates deeply with listeners. Each piece in the album is a musical snapshot, a moment frozen in time, and creating it was a heartfelt journey of expression and connection.
Let’s journey back to the very beginning of your musical odyssey. How did your passion for music spark, and at what age did you realize that this was your calling?
My musical journey began in New York, where I was born to Afghan parents. As a hyperactive child, my parents decided to get me a piano to help channel my energy. We later moved to Czechoslovakia, where my father worked for the embassy, and that’s where I started taking piano lessons from a talented teacher associated with the Prague Symphony. While the lessons themselves weren’t initially captivating, the magic happened when the teacher left, and I could immerse myself in playing. That love for sitting down and playing the piano just stuck with me. From a very young age, around six or seven, I had a clear sense that this was what I wanted to do with my life. It became all-encompassing, steering my path, and here we are today.
You recently celebrated over 20 years in the music industry, marking the anniversary of your first album, Opal Fire. How do you manage to keep your music fresh and innovative while maintaining your signature style?
Absolutely, staying creatively inspired is a journey that evolves organically for me. The key is to remain open to various sources of inspiration. One example is my latest album, “Moments of Beauty,” which received a Grammy nomination. The inspiration for this album struck unexpectedly during a dinner with my kids, triggering a flashback to a moment from my childhood dining with my parents. That single moment became the catalyst for an entire album.
The creative process for “Moments of Beauty” is a testament to the unpredictable nature of inspiration. Each flash of inspiration, like the dinner flashback with my kids, became a building block for the album. For instance, a specific moment of reflection became the track “Passage of Time,” setting the tone for the entire collection. The album, in essence, is a mosaic of these beautiful, distinct moments woven together to create a cohesive narrative.
Can you shed light on some of the challenges you’ve encountered in your musical journey and how you’ve navigated through them?
Certainly, the path of a creative artist is far from a smooth road. Challenges are inherent, and everyone in the field faces their share of ups and downs. Regardless of the level of success, uncertainties persist. Even when creating an album, there’s a lingering doubt about its feasibility—whether it will be the last due to financial concerns or the fear of losing fans. Dealing with the uncertainties is a part of the artist’s journey. The key, I believe, is to embrace the challenges as an intrinsic aspect of the creative process. Recognizing that challenges are inevitable but surmountable is crucial. My love for what I do fuels the determination to overcome obstacles. It’s a conscious choice to confront challenges head-on, driven by the passion for my craft.
How do you perceive the evolution of the music industry over the years, especially considering your extensive experience?
The transformation in the music industry has been profound, particularly from the time of my album “Opal Fire” in 2002 to the present day. Back then, visibility and distribution were significantly limited. Artists relied on physical record stores, and making an album involved substantial investments in recording studios. The landscape was entirely different, with no YouTube or Spotify.
The advent of digital platforms has revolutionized the accessibility of music. Unlike the past, where artists needed approval and costly processes, today, anyone with talent can independently share their work on platforms like YouTube and Spotify. While this democratization opens doors for many, it also means increased competition. Artists now have the autonomy to showcase their creations without traditional gatekeepers.
The shift in the industry has its pros and cons. On the positive side, accessibility has surged, allowing more aspiring artists to enter the scene without major financial barriers. However, the increased ease of entry has led to a crowded space, demanding artists to stand out. Additionally, the shift towards single-track consumption encourages artists to consistently deliver excellence in every piece, enhancing the overall quality of musical offerings.
For aspiring musicians embarking on their careers, what fundamental advice would you impart to guide them in their musical journey?
My advice for emerging musicians is grounded in the essence of craftsmanship. In the early stages of my career, I dedicated significant time to honing my craft—learning to perform, compose, and truly understand the art of music. It’s crucial to recognize that tools like computers are aids, not substitutes for genuine musical skill.
While the journey of a musician isn’t solely about accolades or financial gains, investing time in formal music education can be immensely beneficial. Whether through music schools or lessons, this structured learning provides a foundation that goes beyond the superficial aspects of music creation. It instills a profound understanding and appreciation for the art, contributing to a musician’s long-term growth.
The essence of creating music should always be driven by a genuine love for the craft. Prioritizing the intrinsic joy of making music over external factors like recognition or financial gain ensures that the artist remains true to their passion. The journey becomes more fulfilling when the core motivation is rooted in the love for art itself.
Any final words for your fans and our audience?
I’d like to express my gratitude for having me, and I’m truly honored to be part of the judging panel for the InterContinental Music Awards. It’s a thrilling opportunity to collaborate with talented musicians and experience their incredible work. On a personal note, I want to highlight my latest album, “Moments of Beauty,” available on all platforms. The album is humbly nominated for a Grammy Award this year in the Best New Age Ambient or Chant category. If you’re curious, check it out on my website, OmarAkram.com, and follow me on Instagram. Lastly, a big thank you to everyone and especially to the InterContinental Music Awards for having me.
Omar Akram Contact Info:
- Website: https://www.omarakram.com/fyc
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/realomarakram
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/omarakram
InterContinental Music Awards Team