Todor Kobakov
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Todor Kobakov

Band Classical Pop


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“Emotionally gripping melodies…what makes Pop Music so special is Kobakov’s skill in composing songs that are profoundly and transparently emotional without coming across as sentimental or schmaltzy.”

- EYE WEEKLY (Oct.22, 2009)


Todor Kobakov
Pop Music
By Eric Hill

The trend of classical music crossing over into the mainstream (or our non-MTV/HMV version of the mainstream) has peaked recently with artists like Peter Broderick and Johann Johannsson turning up on indie labels, or Ryuichi Sakamoto being drawn into the world of electronics. Toronto, ON native Todor Kobakov plays a more rigid and recognizably classical form of solo piano than the forward-leaning tendencies of so-called "indie chamber music." So, the Pop Music title is either an ironic jab or hinges solely on the two tracks featuring vocals by Emily Haines and TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe. The latter's "Loving Hands" is a reflective gem of musical theatre. Kobakov's instrumental tracks subdivide between Satie-derived gentle and deliberate minimalism, Chopin's supple nocturnal statements and the watery cascade of notes that would make Rachmaninoff smile (maybe). Nods to post-classical or experimental forms never appear, as Kobakov's reliance on the bedrock of popular form, arguably, is unwavering. (88 Calibre) - Exclaim!


“Even if you don't know his name (which again, you probably do/should) you most probably know his work. He did strings arrangements for Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton's Knives Don't Have Your Back, Sarah Slean Weight, and Stars ' Set Yourself On Fire. He has scored commercials and indeed feature films, including Pinkville and Young People Fucking. Oh, and aside from his solo work, which is gorgeous, he plays in Haines' backing back the Soft Skeleton, in Major Maker, and in Small Sins. Like, seriously, the guy's got a CV better than Jesus. (That's Jesus Jones,
for the record.) “ 


“Tickling the ivories with the grace and eccentricity of early 20th century avant gardist Erik Satie, Kobakov’s emphasis on melody, recurring themes and brief compositions
successfully provides a “pop” accessibility. Recommended for the ADD-addled
among us who can still enjoy a pretty piano tune.” - FFWD


The last few days have been amazing. Welcoming our son - Cillian Christian - into the world has been a heavy dose of emotions. It's amazing that something that can't speak can trigger so many emotions. Fittingly, the same can be said about classically trained Toronto wizard, Todor Kobakov.

Born in Bulgaria, Todor now resides in Toronto and has integrated himself in the indie scene. He's written arrangements for Stars, Jason Collett and Emily Haines, and played keys for bands like Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, Small Sins, Sarah Slean, and Luke Doucet but his new LP - Pop Music - is a stirring collection of orginials he wrote that really stay true to his classical training.

These songs are, for lack of a more lucid description, stirring. Even though his record features tracks with Ms. Haines and Tunde Adebimpe on vocals, his songs speak volumes even when no one says a word. This isn't the type of record we normally recommend, but it's one worth your time. - HERO HILL


“Classical orchestration and independent rock music don’t usually sit at the same cafeteria table; the former is identified by its meticulous construction and epic aggrandizing, while the latter is powered by spontaneity, aloofness, and eternal youth. Todor Kobakov is one personality who may be bridging that divide.” - TORO MAGAZINE


“Kobakov is able to separate the emotions on each track and give the
listener a new experience throughout the entire disc…if you want to experience a new
kind of music, make sure to pick up a copy” - 4 STARS - THE UNITER


Regarded by Now as Toronto's best keys man, Kobakov (The Soft Skeleton, Small Sins, Major Maker) returns to his roots with Pop Music. If you ignore the guest appearances by star vocalists Emily Haines and Tunde Adebimpe (though their songs Carpe Diem and Loving Hands are lovely) and concentrate merely on how Kobakov's piano tells stories, you'll be treated to many. There's both darkness and light here, and also the muted glow of that in-between time of day and life. Also, parts of Pop Music are so simultaneously vital and gentle we may need to invent a new word." - 4 STARS


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



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