As musicians turn to fusing and experimenting with different genre, it has become increasingly difficult to classify these new products in classical terms; rock, jazz, country. Some opt for describing what their music should invoke by using terms such as dance or chill-out music.
In a city like Cairo, where those who grew up in it often yearn for a getaway and those who come on short visits are fascinated by its fast pace, chill-out music stands out as a much sought-after remedy.
Earlier this month, Hisham Kharma, a music enthusiast and an advertising creative director by profession, débuted his album, “First Voyage,” a collection of chill-out tracks that ranked number 1 bestseller on the Virgin Megastore Music Charts during its first week.
First Voyage is full of firsts: It is Kharma’s first venture into the world of music, where he is both the composer and producer, and it is Egypt’s first home-grown album in the world music genre.
“I have wanted to release this album for the past 10 years,” said Kharma about Voyage, which, “for sentimental values” he named after the first track.
“Voyage,” a track Kharma composed many years ago, carries a calming and somewhat familiar aura, a fitting introduction to the rest of the LP. The structure of the song relies on a soothing redundancy that you will find yourself humming hours later.
“After the Sun” is a personal favorite. It strips your outsides and leaves you staring into it as it unfolds; a tune that will drive you into a pondering state.
Kharma’s compositions are aided with live nai and violin, giving depth to the songs and adding an overtone to their electronic base. And to him, the likelihood of holding a theme-based live performance is not a distant plan.
On his choice of fusion chill-outs, Kharma said: “It’s a stress relief; plus it’s a genre that not a lot of people [in Egypt] have ventured into.”
In addition, fusion chill-outs is not age-specific and thus is bound to attract a wider pool of listeners. “Trance and techno cater to a certain age group; you won’t find a 70-year-old raving,” he joked.
Although the genre remains novel to many Egyptians, Kharma did not hesitate to take a leap of faith.
“How much money it was going to bring back wasn’t really my objective. I just wanted to share something that I love,” he said. "But after hearing people’s feedback about the album, I started to realize that there is actually a pool of chill out-listeners.
“The greatest feedback I got was when a few people told me that they never really listened to chill out music until my album.”
Numerous challenges come when producing one’s own album, especially without having a music powerhouse to rely on.
While Kharma juggled composition, production, distribution, legalities and copyrights, he resorted to friends in the fields in the animation, design, packaging and sound engineering departments, bringing the album together in just one year.
In addition, he relied on Virgin Megastore for branding support and recently allied with Hybrid Records for online distribution.
After a successful debut, what’s next? For Kharma, the picture is still hazy.
“Although I have always pursued music as a hobby, I am not certain of which direction I want to take now. The output of this album exceeded my expectations.”
When asked whether not having an academic background in music would hold him back, Kharma was quick to refute such a premise.
“It’s an expression of what I feel, and I am not trying to abide by certain rules or theory. And what I like about fusion is that it is not specific to a certain genre.”
First Voyage can be purchased at Virgin Megastore, Diwan and Mori Sushi outlets. For more information, visit: http://www.hishamkharmamusic.com/