Can music transcend cultural barriers and bring about world peace? Omar Akram is living proof that it just might be possible. The Grammy Award-winning Afghan-American recording artist is often referred to as a “cultural diplomat” for his evocative, elegant compositions, which are slowly helping to heal ancient wounds between war-torn nations.
Described as “a marriage of passion and grace, of adventure and relaxation, of beauty and raw earthiness,” Akram’s music features piano, violin, guitars, flute, Persion ney, and world percussion—a vibrant reflection of his multi-cultural background. The son of a U.N. diplomat, Akram spent his childhood traveling around the world and drinking in musical influences from Afghanistan, Cuba, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and many other countries.
“Every culture I have encountered has influenced my music,” says Akram, “… In a world where communication and understanding between cultures is sometimes difficult, I try to have the instruments speak to one another in a manner that crosses any cultural barriers.”
For his inspiring, unifying works, Akram is also sometimes called the musical equivalent of Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. Akram’s 2007 album, Secret Journey peaked at No. 12 on the New Age charts, and his 2012 Echoes of Love received a Grammy for Best New Age Album. He is the first Afghan American ever to win a Grammy.
According to Akram, one of his biggest sources of creativity is the Transcendental Meditation technique. The musician started practicing TM about 5 years ago, after he began to experience some creative blocks and a friend suggested he try it out. Today, he says his TM practice helps him to stay on track—especially during those long days in the recording studio.
In a recent Q&A with RYOT News, Omar Akram discussed the benefits of his TM practice with writer Christopher Caplan. Here are a few excerpts:
Q: How has TM helped your creative process over the years?
I think it definitely brings you closer to the source of creativity. I feel this way almost every time. I remember David Lynch was talking about it. He said it was like “searching for the big fish,” or in other words, reaching deep down. I can reach deep down inside of myself and get to the big fish — that big creative idea. That’s what it’s all about, the big creative idea, and TM helps me find this.
Q: Do you use TM when you are in the recording studio?
I try to do it a couple of times a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening. It has been really helpful both with creativity and dealing with the stress and deadlines of my upcoming album, “Daytime Dreamer.” It kind of sets the course of my whole day. Once I’m in the studio, I like to take a few minutes, but it’s hard to do it during the day, and that’s my routine. When I do it the morning it helps me focus for the whole day, and shift everything so I have a clearer sense of what I need to do. In the evening I can absorb everything that I’ve done, and refresh my mind all over again.
Q: How do you feel about David Lynch’s recent advocacy of TM?
I think what he’s doing is fantastic because he is really trying to get it out to school kids and to people that have never been exposed to it before. I think that once people try it, I mean really try it, they realize how beneficial it is.
Q: How do you think TM can help children and students?
One thing that I know is that kids sometimes have a hard time focusing on anything. Especially nowadays because they are being bombarded with so much media. I think it’s really helpful for kids once they give it a chance. They learn the value of meditation and focus. It will be hard in the beginning to understand what they’re doing, but with proper guidance they’ll learn. I think that not only will it help them become more creative, but they will improve in all aspects of schooling and self-esteem.
Click below to watch a live video recording of Omar Akram’s “Run Away with Me”.
You can read the full RYOT News interview here: http://www.ryot.org/qa-omar-akram-first-afghan-american-to-win-a-grammy-talks-transcendental-meditation/230353
Visit Omar Akram’s website for more information on the artist and to hear samples of his music: http://blog.omarmusic.com/
Learn more about the David Lynch Foundation: http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/