John Farah
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John Farah


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"Alchemical Brother"

Eastern and Western, traditional and avant-garde, electronic and acoustic - to Toronto composer/performer John Kameel Farah, these are all puzzle pieces to be arranged, rearranged and deranged to create fascinating new permutations of music. Hear it all happen when Farah joins Eric Shinn and Mitchell Akiyama for an evening called Alchemy Organum, a mix of keys, computers and archaic tech... - Mirror Magazine, Montreal

"DVD depicts Celestial Ballet"

...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. - Toronto Star

"Creation review, Hour Mag, Montreal"

Skilled pianist and electronic music composer John Kameel Farah introduces you to his unusual world with 20 instrumental cuts exploring traditional Eastern and Western music, improvisation and contemporary ambient, IDM and d'n'b sounds. A challenging listen, the unique nature of Farah's style draws from influences as disparate as Aphex Twin and Squarepusher to Schoenberg or Keith Jarrett... the album's mood quickly fluctuates from a lullaby to frantic orchestral drill'n'bass. All of this makes Farah stand out... - Steve Lalla

"Farah is re-defining Electronica, Toronto Star"

Breaking the sound barrier

John Kameel Farah is redefining electronica, mixing pop beats and acoustic

Jul 05, 2007
John Terauds

It's ironic that the city's most creative artists keep getting forced farther and farther away from the high-rent condo and neu-loft downtown where culture is supposed to live.

Here's just one example: At Davenport Rd. and Ossington Ave., an intersection untouched by the drywall-dusted finger of gentrification, resides 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.

"It can't just be intellectual," says Farah of his creative mindset. "It needs to make an emotional statement as well."

Late-night visitors will be able to experience the latest fruit of Farah's imagination free tomorrow at Harbourfront's Lakeside Terrace.

With his computer, keyboards (including a two-manual harpsichord) and visual-loop projections by Toronto artist Eamon Mac Mahon, Farah will create "Apocalyptic Breakbeat Harpsichord," an unbroken 70-minute set.

With an array of artists spanning art and popular music, a breakdancing competition, contemporary movement and even film, the four-year-old Beats, Breaks & Culture festival swells the waterfront with an eclectic mix of cutting-edge creation from tomorrow to Sunday.

The last 15 years have been a transformation for Farah, as he migrated from traditional piano performance and Western composition (he won two Glenn Gould composition prizes while studying at the University of Toronto) to the outer galaxies of electronica.

He even spends hours on elaborate pen-and-ink artworks, which he sees as a visual extension of his work with sound.

Learning the evolving craft of mixing-board software and spinning the individual threads of each audio track, Farah feels he has reached a pivotal moment in his art.

Last year, he released his first solo electronic CD, Creation. Now, with the help of a manager, he is trying to plug into the international electronic music festival circuit while juggling his Toronto commitments, which include teaching piano.

Farah approaches his art as a totality of sound, rhythm, flow and texture. "It's a Gesamtkunstwerk," he says with a blush, apologizing for his reference to Richard Wagner's conception of an all-embracing art form.

Tomorrow's musical apocalypse is billed as improvisation, but, as is the case in anything improvised in classical music and jazz, there has to be an underlying structure to keep the momentum going.

"The music has to have a fluid energy," says Farah, who has created a set of pre-recorded "columns" that support improvisation in between. "They are anchors for the brain."

These columns are layers of complex beats and manipulated samples – "They are like mists on a stage; they dissolve and reform," says Farah. Harpsichord and other keyboard sets emerge from those mists for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, then give way to something new.

Farah gave visual artist Mac Mahon the basic outline of the performance, so that the moving images can synchronize with the music. "The visual immediately attracts people who wouldn't otherwise know how to approach the music," says Farah.

"It's like a Trojan Horse," he says with a smile.

Just the facts
WHO: John Kameel Farah
WHEN: Tomorrow @ 11 p.m.
WHERE: Lakeside Terrace, Harbourfront, 235 Queens Quay W. - Toronto Star

"Best Pianist, 2006, Now Mag."

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. - NOW Magazine reader poll

"Creation review, Toronto Star"

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 Terrauds

"Creation review, NOW Magazine"

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

"CBC profile of John Farah"

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. - CBC Metro Morning: What's Goin' On This Week

"Beats per Week - DB'S BEST BETS"

Toronto composer John Kameel Farah has an enterprising musical mind, one equally attuned to contemporary art music and drum & bass, ambient atonality and rip-roaring beats. Here, in a two-hour showcase he describes as 'somewhere between a solo piano concert and a techno event,' Farah improvises on piano, computer and synth. - EYE Weekly, Toronto

"Review for "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. - EYE Weekly, Toronto


Released CD "Creation" independently in 2006, receiving critical acclaim and frequent airplay on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).
MP3s are available for listening at as well as



John Kameel Farah is a Toronto composer, pianist, electronic musician and visual artist, fusing the music worlds of renaissance and baroque counterpoint, improvisation, Middle-Eastern texture, ambient minimalism, techno and electro-acoustics, to synthesize an entirely original sound.

A virtuosic keyboardist who simultaneously employs piano, synthesized sound sculpture, computer sequencing, and at times even harpsichord and organ, his creative efforts are fueled by exchanges of energies on a galactic and microscopic scale. In an effort to see the larger picture, his music draws upon an interest in history, mythology, painting and psychology to help deepen his understanding of life and the human condition.

Classically trained in composition and piano performance at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory, John received the Glenn Gould Composition Award twice during his studies. The influences of the classical and modern composers whose works he performed can be felt in his music, mixing with forays into free improvisation, minimalism, jazz, electro-acoustics, eastern scales, ambient and genres of electronic dance music such as drum & bass, IDM.

In 1999, after meeting minimalist composer/pianist Terry Riley in NYC, he had private lessons at his home in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and on two occasions he studied Middle-Eastern classical music at the Arabic Music Retreat in Hartford. In 1998 he performed the complete solo piano works of Arnold Schoenberg in Toronto.

He has been interviewed and broadcast by the CBC�s radio programs The Signal, Brave New Waves, Two New Hours and Metro Morning. Also a prolific visual artist, his drawings have been presented at solo and group exhibitions, recently being the Visual-Artist-In-Residence at the Trane Studio jazz club in Toronto.
Farah performs regularly in Toronto, and has also given concerts in Paris, Boston, Vancouver, Montreal, Vermont, the Middle-East and Mexico, this year giving a concert atop the Aztec Great Pyramid of Cholula with galactic visuals created by astronomer John Dubinski. In 1999 and 2002 he visited the Edward Said National Conservatory in the West Bank, giving performances and masterclasses in Ramallah, East Jerusalem.

Toronto's NOW Magazine named his as Best Pianist of 2006.

for more info, mp3s and video clips, please visit