John Kameel Farah is a Toronto–based composer, pianist and visual artist. He studied composition and piano performance at the University of Toronto, where he received the Glenn Gould Composition Award twice during his studies. In 1999 he had private lessons with Terry Riley in California, and later at the Arabic Music Retreat in Hartford. In 1998, he performed the complete solo piano works of Arnold Schoenberg in Toronto. Toronto’s NOW Magazine named his as Best Pianist 2006. Recently John received the 2011 K.M. Hunter Artist Award for Music from the Ontario Arts Council.
Farah now focuses primarily on his own creative hybrid of improvisation, composition and electronic music. Simultaneously using piano, synthesizer, computer, and at times harpsichord, his solo performances exist somewhere between the concert hall and an experimental DJ set, mixing forays into free improvisation, jazz, electro–acoustics, middle-eastern modes, and ambient minimalism and transforming them into imaginative, surrealistic structures.
In an effort to expand his musical palette, his music draws upon an interest in history, mythology and painting. As a visual artist, his ink drawings have been presented at solo and group exhibitions. He has also composed extensively for solo piano as well as for string quartet, percussion groups, wind ensembles and electronic arrangements.
Farah performs regularly in his native Toronto, and has toured internationally across the U.K., Europe, USA, Canada, the Middle–East, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico. In 1999 and 2002, he visited the Edward Said National Conservatory in the West Bank, giving performances and masterclasses in Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. His last solo CD, “Unfolding” was released on Dross:tik Records in 2009, followed by a duo album in 2011 with pianist Attila Fias, and his next album, “Between Carthage and Rome” will be released in late 2014. He is a member of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, as well as pianist-composer for Peggy Baker Dance Projects, and was the Electronic-Composer-in-Residence for Soundstreams Canada for 2013.
“Behind a stage set up that can include piano, Baroque harpsichords, various synthesizers, and laptop computers, John Kameel Farah cuts an impressive and unforgettable figure in solo performance. As such diverse instrumentation readily suggests, Farah is interested in working in a wide open creative field through which he can combine, juxtapose, and transform the musics that interest him most: Early and Baroque keyboard music, ambient minimalism, Middle-Eastern music, Electronic Dance Music, and electroacoustics.
“In performance, Farah ranges all over his instruments while setting up textures and countertextures, moving deftly from acoustic to electronic episodes, and testing and deploying his materials with a mixture of scientific care and wild abandon. Improvisation is a key working method, both at his various keyboards and in the execution of electronic beats and processes that are equally at the core of his approach.
“Frenetic and contemplative in turn, Farah’s music is underpinned by a deep emotional and spiritual reservoir which, when framed through his exceptional musicality and virtuosic instrumental command, packs his highly original solo music with considerable and undeniable clout.”
-Guelph Jazz Festival
“…a force connected to the living, breathing, cutting edge of music.
It’s a crazy mix. But it has the power to mesmerize even listeners who have no idea about the complex theories behind how these sound waves came to be.”