“…unique blend of virtuosic playing and compositional simplicity… Over previous releases Farah has developed his own language, seeking bridges between his various musical heritages. On Time Sketches, Farah now skilfully uses this built-up language to take us on an awe-inspiring journey through time and space.” -Peter Ellman, Exclaim! Magazine, Sept. 2017 (read full article)
“Farah’s musical influences are extremely broad and cosmopolitan. They embrace the musics of Renaissance keyboard composers, J.S. Bach, Arabic maqam, Schoenberg and Ravel, as well as that of the minimalists, free improvisation and vernacular genres such as drum and bass. He performs all of them with precision and panache.” -Andrew Timar, Wholetnote Magazine (read full article)
Musical Toronto: Distilling the Spaces Between Carthage and Rome “Masterfully balancing and synthesizing a variety of disparate elements, Between Carthage and Rome is exemplary from so many perspectives, it would be impossible to narrow down just one. … It’s a stunning display of virtuosity, and a calm display of restraint. Its harmony evokes several different cultures, and yet, the statements speak towards a more universal and pure musical aesthetic. It is as focused as it is eclectic. It’s a nod to tradition, with a hand on the pulse of the present, facing fearlessly to the future”. (Jan, 2015)
Glen Hall interview with John Kameel Farah: Exclaim Magazine, April 2013 “…pianist/musician John Kameel Farah represents the antithesis of the all-too-common “superficial modernist.” Focusing on making deep connections between all the elements that go into his music, weighs countless hours of research, study, practice, and experimentation — translating into hard-won, unified performances that have a symphonic scope… subtly combined in an enveloping sonic experience of genuine artistic vision….” (read article)
John Terauds: Musical Toronto Blog Baroque structure meets 21st century electronics at the creative hands of John Kameel Farah… (read article) CBC Music Revered and ambitious avant-garde composer/pianist John Kameel Farah is thrilled to be back for a special set at the X Avant New Music Festival on Sunday, Oct. 21, that showcases a different and challenging side of his music. (…read article)
Review for PIECES OF THE EARTH “These two accomplished artists have been collaborating for a number of years and it shows, especially in the spontaneous improvised bridges between the composed works. With technical abilities to spare, Fias and Farah delight us with virtuosic panache and thoughtful musicality.” -David Olds, Wholenote Magazine
…Another Review for PIECES OF THE EARTH A couple of years ago, John Kameel Farah’s “Unfolding” made sure the “I” in IDM was written in 72-point boldface, with its insane, baroque keyboard and electronic compositions. This new release sees him paired with equally pyrotechnic pianist Attila Fias and their incredible dexterity is much more than mere flash. If you were trying to assign a genre as a starting point, most likely it would be European classical music of the 19th and 20th centuries, but upon further investigation, the duo’s eclecticism questions any idea of foundation. Hints of jazz, Middle Eastern modes and even heavy metal inform the playing. You’ve never heard a piano duo like this. – David Dacks, EXCLAIM Magazine
Interview by U.K.-based “Wheel Me Out” magazine Unable to find an assessment of Toronto-based John Kameel Farah’s music that doesn’t use odiously vague terms like “cutting edge” and “genre-busting”, Wheel Me Out thought JKF might like to enlighten us in his own words. Classically trained, sonically obsessed and at a cultural crossroads, he reluctantly offered “Postmodern… but after that.” by Ted Niles
5/5 stars “Celebrated Canadian pianist John Farah has been fusing electronic beats with future jazz and classical composition since 2005. Trip-hop, drum’n’bass and experimental electronica enthusiasts will be floored by Farah’s seamless mastery of the myriad sonic layers here: percussive elements, keys, synthesizers, Amen breaks and soft jazz chords intermingle in a breathtakingly complex dance. Farah’s music works on a dizzying array of levels and will astonish chin-stroking jazz nerds, brain dead bass-heads and those seeking the coolest new background music. Incomparable.”
-Steve Lalla, Hour Magazine (Montreal) 5/5
“Orchestrating Ephiphanies”: in Montréal’s Hour Magazine, Sept 18, 2009 Toronto-based pianist and composer John Kameel Farah stunned the world with the release of his achingly emotive and infinitely intricate sophomore album Unfolding earlier this year. Drawing on influences from his background in classical, jazz, Arabic music and free improvisation, and expertly seasoning them with peerless electronic drum programming, Farah is breaking down barriers towards creating a more natural and intuitive musical dialogue between man and his technology. With Unfolding he has completely rewritten the rulebook, producing a labyrinthine soundscape of such dizzying colours, depths and sonorities that it can’t be called jazz, modern classical or fusion any easier than it could be labelled drum’n’bass or IDM. Read the complete article HERE
Describing this disc as a combination of jazz and drum ’n’ bass is accurate but extremely misleading. No, this is not laid-back coffee shop breaks with lukewarm horn solos tacked on top, and you’re probably never going to hear these tracks DJed in some cheesy lounge…. The result is a remarkably successful combination of computer music and live musicianship, and manages to sound unlike pretty much anything else out there. -Benjamin Boles, NOW Magazine, NNNN
With Unfolding, Farah concentrates all his diverse energies into one powerful statement. Actually describing what’s happening is a hell of a lot more challenging than listening to these waterfall-like cascades of sounds… It’s simply impossible to imagine what’s going to happen next…. Eleven-minute epic closer “Cataclysm” has several pile driving false endings that represent the furthest extremity of this maximalist work. -David Dacks, Exclaim Magazine, August, 2009
“…a force connected to the living, breathing, cutting edge of music… Performer-composer John Kameel Farah, 34, is bravely, imaginatively forging new sonic ideas at the remote point where the starchy concert hall and glistening-chested dance club could possibly intersect. His barrier-busting mix of electronic, acoustic composition and improvisation contains everything from early Middle Eastern and Western Baroque to 20th-century serialism and minimalism, as well as the deep, complex percussion loops of the dance floor. 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…” (cont’d…)CLICK here to read the full article
NOW Magazine Toronto – Best of Toronto 2006 Best Pianist – JOHN KAMEEL FARAH “Farah occupies a fairly idiosyncratic (and possibly lonely) place as a keyboard player. He’s classically trained and technically proficient, but also steeped in experimental improvisation, and he consciously integrates non-Western traditions and ideas while also freely borrowing from electronic dance music. Not many would try to play cascading harpsichord figures over top of skittish experimental drum ‘n’ bass rhythms, but we’re glad he does, as few others have the chops or the creativity to pull it off.”
The Toronto Star on CREATION: “Toronto composer/keyboardist John Kameel Farah crosses genres and breaks down traditional boundaries with this electronic-inspired invention. He plans and improvises in equal measure. He interweaves acoustic and synthetic. He is equally comfortable on the dance floors of the 16th and 21st centuries. Here, in 21 seamless tracks, Farah takes us on an entrancing, beat-loop-powered tour of our interior cultural-musical psyche. My two favourite tracks (the nine-minute “Fantasie and Toccata”) introduce the music of William Byrd to the synthesizer and sequencer. Long live the mash-up.” -John Terauds, TORONTO STAR, July 27, 2006, (3.5/4 stars)
JOHN KAMEEL FARAH Creation (independent) “Ideally, all musicians’ influences would be as diverse as the sonic world John Kameel Farah inhabits. It can be tough trying to combine your various loves into a sound that actually makes sense, and most artists choose to focus on one style at a time. When someone actually combines the elements of their musical history without making them sound like a bunch of empty references, the results are genuinely exciting. A skilled classically trained piano player, Farah also dabbles in modern improvised music, as well as dance and experimental electronic music. This isn’t the type of crossover stuff that’s going to be rocking dance floors any time soon, but he links his various ideas and tangents in many ways like a DJ set, with interludes joining the tracks and a real sense of a journey emerging over the album’s length.” -Benjamin Boles, NOW Magazine, Toronto, Sept. 21, 2006 “If your word of the day calendar gave you polymath today, it might also include a photo, or even better, an mp3 file from John Kameel Farah. Like a musical super virus, the definition resistant Farah can’t be contained. He bursts into many of Toronto’s bubble-like music communities, drawing from baroque, jazz, hip hop, classical, drum&bass and Arabic practices and merging them all into a very personal web of unlikely connections. Avant-garde? Yes. Hoity-toity? No. And if you check out Sunday’s concert with TASA, you’ll also see what happens when his creativity spills over into visual art.” Tori Allen, CBC Metro Morning, Jan 26, 2007
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Farah in Key, by Fateema Sayani Toronto piano guy John Kameel Farah counts himself lucky to have been reviewed by the Toronto Star’s classical critic one day, played an avant-garde jazz fest the next, then an underground electronica event a few days later. Those diverse interests converge on his debut CD, Creation, which is heavy on experimentation while still having a palpable pop bent. When attached to Farah, the word “experimentation” isn’t synonymous with atonal drones. A childhood piano master, he moves from classical piano to Middle Eastern textures to trip hop. The fusing is relatively seamless on disc. So just how does he translate the aural goulash on stage? “It’s halfway between a formal concert experience and an underground drum ‘n’ bass DJ set,” he says. Farah — a one-man beat-slinging post-orchestra — will lug a Fender Rhodes electric piano, synthesizer, laptop and harpsichord to town for his first Ottawa show, playing two sets. “Each set is like a giant composition,” he says. “The structure is really large with lots of mini-structures inside it. It appeals to people’s imaginations: they don’t have to understand what’s going on theoretically, they just enjoy this big trip.”
CREATION review in WHOLENOTE magazine: Classically trained pianist and composer, Toronto-based Farah’s CD “Creation” is an extraordinary self-produced musical journey which literally merges music from the 16th century to today’s techno dance floors. It is all performed with style and assuredness by the composer on acoustic piano, harpsichord and various synthesizers and samplers.
Above all, it is evident that here we have the sure hand of a composer with something to say. Farah’s command of his instruments and aesthetic direction allows him to superimpose Renaissance European dance music on top of current synthesized dance beats (or perhaps the other way around), while evoking 1950-70s electronic analogue synth sounds, all mediated by minimalist patterns of the Reich kind. At other moments, such as on the luteniste, de-tuned synth keyboard melodies cleverly elicit a Middle Eastern sound world. The sequence of the individual pieces is satisfyingly modulated and reminds this listener of the younger John Oswald’s sense of adventurous musical form.
According to those who know the dance music scene better than I (a sad admission since one of my sons is a Hiphop DJ), the ordering of pieces on this CD is similar to a dance DJ set and replicates Farah’s live concerts. Short interludes played on honestly-recorded acoustic piano and harpsichord add to the sense of a sonic grand tour – taking place over time and world geography – which emerges over the duration of “Creation”.
On music for the GRAVITAS DVD “…a trance-inducing landscape inspired by the vast history of music, from 16th-century English pavanes, to techno, to traditional Arab influences. The interaction of looped beats and repeating sound samples has the power to pull us out of ourselves – a measure of great music. …For Farah, it’s a quest to understand how and why the world is as it is. And the insights he gleans are channelled right into his soundscapes. ‘Maybe the only truth I can express is in music,’ he says. To do this with sounds… that appeal to club kids and new music fans equally is a major achievement.” -John Terauds, TORONTO STAR, Mar 9, 2006
More on music for the GRAVITAS DVD: “In the 45-minute work, local composer John Kameel Farah’s ingenious, Autechre-like score accompanies animations generated by John Dubinski on a supercomputer… go to the Music Gallery to hear Farah’s interpretation of Kepler’s Music of the Spheres, conveniently shortened from 30 years to 30 minutes in duration. Damn, this science is too tight.” -Jason Anderson, EYE Weekly, March 9, 2006