What do Drake, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber have in common? They all come from Toronto, the largest city in Canada. They have dominated global music charts throughout 2015-16 with their catchy pop tunes. And they also love to praise their home city, making Canada sound like a cool new place to make music.
But while these guys have already cemented their positions on the global stage, there is a younger scene of new exciting musicians and producers emerging from Canada. It is best to keep an eye on them as they will be rocking the world in the coming years, if not decades.
One such project is SAFAKASH. The guy behind it is Arya Safakish. He is from Toronto. He is only 19. Yet he drops the beats that make you pause whatever you do to fully embrace his rhythms and melodies. He defines himself as a hip-hop producer but he also writes his own music that ranges from melodic pop and downtempo to groovy funky beats.
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I discovered Safakash through the BBC Radio 6 show in which Spotify’s Matthew Ogle, the man in charge of algorithm-powered Discover Weekly playlist, introduced a selection of tracks recommended by the said algorithm. Ogle picked the track Somebody that immediately captivates with its amazing retro sampling and consistently growing intensity. The tune is under two minutes which absolutely leaves a listener longing for more.
“Making music is my therapy, It’s my escape from reality,” Safakash told me over the email. “The inspiration is usually my life, or music itself. I’ll hear a riff or a beat that evokes an intense emotion within me and I simply expand on it.”
Safakash both samples and writes original pieces. He plays piano and a classical flamenco guitar. His dad is his biggest fan. He is proud to be Canadian. He dreams of a collaboration with Kanye West. And he just released his new collection of tracks – The B Side – that he has been working on for the last five months. One has to admit that Safakash is an extremely fertile artist. He drops new releases on his SoundCloud almost every week. All of them are exceptional.
ON SAMPLING VS WRITING
“My music is usually a reflection of what I’m listening to, or how I’m feeling. I regularly listen to old and forgotten music. I enjoy pieces of music truly lost in time. My instrumental pieces arise completely out of chance usually.
Once every two weeks I’ll make a trip to Queen Street in downtown Toronto and purchase 20-75 records. Usually I pick records that look unwanted or forgotten. This is for two reasons: the first being the price. Records people don’t want go for $0.25-$5.00 each. The second reason is the mystery, some albums are so old and obscure that they never make it to the internet or mainstream public.
Some weeks I’ll find 10-25 samples, and some weeks I’ll come home with 75 records and not a single usable sample.
I started writing to truly express myself. As much as I love sampling, I’m only building on a foundation whereas writing requires pure originality. I found the therapeutic use in writing truly addicting. Whenever there’s something on my mind I’ll write it in my notebook or phone and use it later.
The first track I sampled was Flying High by Marvin Gaye. It was my first time hearing the album What’s Going On and I’d never sampled a track before. When I heard the vocal performance on the song as well as the baseline, I knew I had to try. That track was the first time I successfully chopped up a sample.”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
“Oddly enough, my first instrument was a keyboard. I did not know how to play the piano, instead I’d load the drum banks on the Casio keyboard and play them. In other instances, I’d take the demo tracks pre-programed on the keyboard and play around with their tempo and instruments. Often I’d play along with the demo tracks to create weird new sounds. At the time I was 6 years old.
I always heard compositions in my head, I’d struggle to recreate them. When I was introduced to music production, there was an instant connection. All the compositions in my head came to life.
Years later however, I learned to play the guitar. I play classical flamenco guitar, and to this day I find it astonishing how some people work that instrument!”
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ON BEING CANADIAN
“The word “Canada” comes from one of the native languages here meaning “village”. There is truly a sense of being outsiders here, as if we’re all from this village. We do things our own way.
The other major character creating factor is the weather. From winter to summer there’s an 80 degrees’ Celsius shift in weather. We only know extreme weather. From a brutal winter, to a scorching hot summer. We know hardship and we know shift. The sense of impermanence and fluidity is ingrained in our brain. Fearlessness is bread here. “
ON DREAM COLLABORATIONS
“My dream is to collaborate and work with the masterminds of the music industry. Whether it’s producing, writing, singing, rapping, or even just looking over music, as long as the greats are involved, I’d be honored.
My dream collaboration is Kanye West. I grew up on his music and he showed me that absolutely anything is achievable. Some other artists I’d love to work with is Daniel Caesar, BADBADNOTGOOD, Majid Jordan, Drake, The Weeknd, and DVSN as they’re all artist I admire who came up from around here.”
ON MUSIC FOR SANITY
“Every single time I see my name anywhere, I’m eternally grateful. I do this music for my own sanity. The day I stop making music is the day I go insane.
However, I have some super fans that I’d be remiss not mentioning. My biggest fan in the world is my dad. He bought my very first song, a collection of loops I threw together in MixCraft Acoustica 5. He told me that he’d always support me, and he has. As for my friends, they’re the ones I represent with every track. I try my hardest to represent all that we’re about and all the things we want in life. Shout-out to my inner crew, you know who you are.”
ON TRUTH AS MAIN THEME
“The theme to my music is things I like listening to. Every piece I make is custom made to be something I’d listen to. The only other theme is truth. Truth is extremely vague, and my whole life I’ve been chasing my definition of it. My music is supposed to reflect my view of truth.”
Follow Safakash here.
Buy his music here.