Todor Kobakov

Todor Kobakov


"Erik Satie meets Sufjan Stevens" (The Toronto Star). Classical music with pop sensibilities.


Todor Kobakov, a Toronto based composer-musician-producer, has one foot planted at the centre of Canada’s alternative music scene, and the other placed deep within the world of classical music.

Given his unique position, it’s no wonder then that Pop Music, Kobakov’s solo piano debut, might best be described as a classical piano album with indie cred. To understand how Pop Music came to, it’s best to start at the beginning.

Music is quite literally in Todor’s blood. Born in Bulgaria in to a family of classical musicians, training at the piano bench began at home at just five years old. At age seven Kobakov was accepted in to the prestigious Sofia School of Music, a full time day school for musically and academically gifted children, where he studied for eight years. The first half of Todor’s life existed on or around the piano. “I practiced for 6 hours every day. Before school, after school, and after dinner. Then we would play just for fun! It sounds a bit heavy, but it’s quite normal in Eastern is just a part of the culture.”

When Todor was sixteen, with the political and economic climate in Bulgaria deteriorating, Todor’s family made the difficult decision to emigrate to Canada. His mother made the equally heart wrenching decision to remain in Bulgaria, where she lives to this day. “That was a hard time” reflects Todor, “I was a teenager in a new country, I spoke little English, and I really missed my mom.”

Luckily for us, the language of music is universal. Todor’s talents were quickly recognized by Professor William Aide of The University of Toronto who admitted Todor in to U of T’s Music Studies program, even though he was just sixteen years old. “Professor Aide is an amazing teacher and a beautiful person,” Kobakov says, “He was never totally satisfied and rarely handed out compliments. I think he did that to keep my ego in check, which was smart and effective. I admit I was a bit cocky back then.” Ego in check, Todor emerged four years later with a Degree in Performance Piano and a much better grasp of the English language. “I still have my daily ESL moment” he muses, “it’s a running joke with my friends”.

Degree in hand, Todor began to edge his own musical palette towards Toronto’s burgeoning underground music scene. As fate would have it, Kobakov befriended a freakishly talented lot of then unknown musicians whose various bands, including the likes of Broken Social Scene, Stars, and Metric, would soon ignite a Canadian indie-rock renaissance with world-wide implications. Kobakov remembers that time fondly. “That was liberating for me. I came from a background of strict classical form and studies, and there where all these bands creating music with really loose structures, melding all sorts of influences, and it all sounded amazing.”

It wasn’t long before these same artists discovered that Kobakov had considerable musical talents of his own. In 2004, indie-pop darlings Stars invited Todor to compose string arrangements on their sophomore release Set Yourself on Fire. The album was an international breakthrough while Todor’s string arrangements (You’re Ex Lover is Dead, Set Yourself on Fire; One More Night) received glowing praise.

Kobakov’s string arrangements have since been commissioned by Sarah Slean, Emily Haines, Fields, Small Sins, Jason Collett, Lindy, Sammy Goldman, and John Critchley to name just a few. In 2008 his haunting string remix of Radiohead’s “Nude” (submitted as an entry in Radioheads “Nude Remix” contest) received an honorable mention in Rolling Stone. Todor’s touring resume includes keyboard duties for Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, Small Sins, Sarah Slean, Luke Doucet, and Major Maker (the indie-rock group he co-founded in 2006 with Lindy Vopnfjord). Fittingly, in 2007 Kobakov was named “Toronto’s Best Keyboardist” by Now Weekly which noted that he was “practically a piano prodigy”.

The idea for Pop Music was born over a pint of Guiness. Todor and his manager were brainstorming ideas for Todor’s debut solo recording project. Having spent the last two years either zig-zagging the continent on tour or scoring commercial and film projects, it suddenly occurred to Todor that what he truly longed for, deep down, was a return to his roots. “It just hit me” says Kobakov “I felt the need to re-connect with the first half of my life. Just me and the piano. The idea was very comforting”. So with this in mind, Todor announced to his manager that his next project would be (quite obviously) a classical piano album.

From there, the artistic vision quickly took shape. “The intention”, Kobakov explains, “was to make a classical album that combined both life as an Eastern European and my life as a Canadian. The classical elements would pay homage to my life in Bulgaria and more importantly, to my mother. The modern elements would be a reflection of my time in Canada.”

As for the title, Kobakov points out that it’s


Pop Music
-Album added to CBCRadio3 Playlist week of Nov.6, 09
-Album added at 26 college radio stations (as of Dec.2, 09)

Set List

11 songs - 40 minutes
Piano only