Montreal Still Holds Some Secrets

I’ve been longing to get something nice to write about for a while. I’ve also been waiting to hear something truly original to feed my ears, yet somewhat familiar cause I’m such a conservative.

Well I was happily surprised when a friend of mine directed me to the blog-like home page of Egyptian born guitarist and songwriter Sherif Karama. I say blog, although nothing really looks like one on there; none of those blogrolls, RSS feeds, articles that lead to other articles that lead to yet other articles, that are all partial, and basically saying the same thing.

Just a clean, simple, homepage, greeting you with some thematic classical guitar that bursts into piano and cello maelstrom, played by the talented artist himself, which really invites you to browse around the site as you listen to the music (you can detach the player to be able to jump from page to page without stopping the music).

The biography tab first called my attention, as I was curious to know where that musician no one’s ever heard of hides on our planet. It was a double surprise to find out he actually resides in Montreal; first because that is not the type of music that usually comes out from there, and also cause such good music usually does come out of there!

Considering the recent outburst of very good bands from the area, one would assume that any good artist would be spotted quite rapidly. However, as Karama said when I contacted him (you can actually communicate with him through his direct e-mail, he even suggests you add him on Facebook!), he’s been so much into writing his material, and stuck in a day job to make ends meet, that the minimal effort of getting out there and bringing the music on a stage was still not met. He is however hoping to be able to start playing live, as soon as he finds some good musicians, and time.

And time seems to be one major issue, not only for him and not only for musicians, but “for anyone with a personal goal to attain, projects or dreams to be realised, that demand much more then the short evenings left after most full-time jobs, split between supper, feeding the kids, and plain old “taking a break“, says Sherif.

But that does’nt seem to come in his way much, as he managed to write well over 20 songs since mid-May 2007, when he decided to fully commit to his art. He did quit his job at the time, but has since returned to a full time job, which he says he likes, but couldn’t spend a lifetime doing. “I believe our society is kinda hypocrite. Everyone needs money, everybody needs to make a comfortable living, of course, but that need often leads people to spending their lives in a vicious circle where they’re only getting-by, but not really in something they love. They’ll learn to accept it, and with time they might even forget that really never was the main plan, but in the end, most of us will by-pass their true reason for being put on this earth, their true passion will just wither away. And I refuse to let that happen to me.”

A blend between the recent Irish export Damien Rice, Nirvana, and a huge influence from oriental and classical writing makes up the unique sound for Karama`s music. The introductory song on his homepage, May, speaks of his naive approach to love, his way-too-high expectations to find old-fashioned romance, and floats on a coat of sampled piano and cello melancholy, which again reflects his brief but poignant incursion in classical music studies at Vincent d’Indy School of Music in Outremont, Montreal. One of my personal favorites, Oranges, reflects a much brighter side of his music, but something keeps bringing the sunshine down, and a constant feel of gloom and nostalgia fill his crackling voice, that often comes to being just a loud whisper of exhaustion.

But don’t be fooled, behind the pain filled music, Sherif is one of the happiest, most down-to-earth persons you’ll come across. “I realize the music may sound that of a broken-hearted and sour teenager, but in a sense, we’ve all been there, and I think it just relates best to people’s old buried feelings, it brings out the hurt kid in all of us. It’s really just my way of expressing things that are not necessarily experience by myself only, but that are universal, human sentiments, which in my opinion are beautiful but somewhat sad and sorrowful aspects to depict; that might make the music sound depressing, when in fact, I have a huge admiration to the human species and the range of emotions it can go through”

And emotion there is; one song can easily go from sounding a happy-gitty number to the saddest melodramatic almost symphonic cry, and fall down on some plain, mean outburst; pretty much what a human being could go through in a day! Some might see the influence of the whole Seattle, so-called Grunge scene of the early 90’s, which Sherif refers to as being his first incursion in guitar music. However, much of the distortion and simple 4chord progressions has been left out, as many more genres have come to contribute to Karama’s overall sound. He refers to classical music as the source of all music, is completely nerdy about his love of Japanese video game music (Nobuo Uematsu, who did the Final Fantasy Soundtracks for over 20years being his favorite) and dreams of one day playing flamenco guitar like, Paco de Lucia style.

It’s also worth noting that Sherif is a big reader, from sci-fi to biographies, between astrophysics and philosophy essays, he just loves to have a good idea of what’s going on in the world, or what happened through-out the ages. And his passion about all things that are genuinely human, really is what makes his music truly unique, because he applies the same desire for grandeur that has been used during the Renaissance period, or by his Romantic era composer-idols, ie: Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn, Chopin, and of course Beethoven. “It really saddens me that those incredible achievements that were done through-out history seem like impossible to do in today’s world.

Those guys would write hour long symphonies, for over 100 instruments…We’re speaking 400 pages of music, all hand-written, and most of them had over 400-500 pieces of music in a life time. And those are’nt little 3min hooks with a verse, a chorus and a solo! When you see the sculptures and paintings of the Renaissance, when you see the amount of work required at that time with the much less advanced techniques or technology available, it makes you wonder why we have no more creations that you can truly consider as defying time itself. I guess today’s geniuses are behind computers, and knowledge has become so much more available that you don’t have any more unique, grand personas, but rather a whole community of small, really specialized actors, that as a whole brings up the true creative nature of mankind.

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