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Kar33m: Rising Ottawa artist makes a difference in local music scene


Kar33m: Rising Ottawa artist makes a difference in local music scene | The Charlatan, Carleton’s independent newspaper

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Ottawa artist, Kar33m, poses for a photo [image by Quest]

The first time Abdul Kareem Muse took to the stage in Canada was at an evening coffee house held by his high school, Glebe Collegiate, during an event where any student can perform onstage for their classmates. Kareem’s performance shocked those who knew him. 

At the time, Kareem was known to everyone as an athlete. No one knew he could sing until he took the stage belting out Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.” It was his first time performing in a few years, and it brought him back to the arts. 

Now, the third-year international business student at Carleton University plans to make music his career. 

Family connections

Originally from Kano, Nigeria, Kareem moved to Ottawa in July 2014. He grew up around music, as his family always supported the arts.

“I’d wake up and my grandma would be singing traditional Nigerian music, and I’d go downstairs, and I’d have one of my uncles playing Ja Rule, 50 Cent, DMX and all that jazz, and then I have another uncle playing Westlife,” Kareem said. 

“That’s when I fully started understanding music.” 

Kareem said his family is a big part of his career and his life, and have always been supportive of his dreams. His mother gave him his first guitar, and his two sisters are supporting him in his music career. One sister helps with fashion and the other, Zainab Muse, is his manager and has directed three of his music videos. 

Zainab said the moment her brother got his first guitar, she realized the depth of his love of music. 

“He just hugged it and he loved it so much,” she said. “I think that was probably the earliest memory [I have of him and music].”

Under the stage name Kar33m, he writes, records and performs his own songs. His most recent release, “SOJAMAN,” debuted on Nov. 6. The song reflects on both Nigerian politics and Black Lives Matter in Canada and the U.S. 

Ottawa artist, Kar33m, performs [image by Quest].

Working towards success

Zainab said although she has seen her brother perform all over Ottawa, it was when he performed at TD Place in Lansdowne Park during an Ottawa Fury game in September 2019 that she realized her brother could have a future in the music industry. 

“He’s committed to this process,” Zainab said. “Seeing him in that crowd on the field … and everyone was getting into it.”

Kareem has worked with Quest, a local music producer, videographer and photographer, several times in the past. Quest owns Dreamland Studios, an Ottawa-based studio he runs out of his house. 

Out of Dreamland, Quest runs what he calls Dreamland Sessions—songwriting and recording sessions with various musicians. Kareem has been one of many artists to take part in these sessions. 

Although Quest has worked with many artists, he said there are few like Kareem. 

“I’ve recorded over 500 artists in my career so far—new singers—but no one like him. He’s got a natural, uncoachable voice,” Quest said in an interview with the Charlatan. “He is willing to work and his passion towards working on something is timeless.” 

Improving Ottawa’s arts scene

Unlike music scenes in other major cities such as Toronto or Montréal, Ottawa doesn’t have a signature sound, Kareem said. 

“There [are] people who create folk music and create it so well,” Kareem said. “Then people will create rap music—like drill stuff. They’ve got their own little communities [and] they’re blowing up in their own ways.” 

Kareem said while Ottawa is not lacking in talent, bridging the gap between genres and artists is the key to making music created in Ottawa more popular. 

Ottawa artist, Kar33m, poses for a photo [image by Quest].

Kareem recently launched a recording studio called Woke Studios, which will double as a community for members of the Ottawa arts scene. He said community is a big part of his draw to the Ottawa arts, so Woke Studios is his most prized accomplishment. 

Though Woke Studios hasn’t officially launched yet, Kareem has big hopes for it in the future.

“When I launch full Woke Studios—because we did a soft launch—but when we do that full launch, there’s no doubt about what we can create,” Kareem said. 

Zainab, who is also a part of Woke Studios, said her brother is not only a good artist but is also well-equipped on the business side. 

“He’s extremely multifaceted, and I think that’s so important for creative entrepreneurs today,” Zainab said. “I think it’s important to learn all the skills that you need. The art is the product, it’s what you get to share, but knowing how it should be marketed, how to make it better—that’s something I see in him and I hope other artists take [that] away from him too.”

Kareem said Woke Studios will not aim to be a record label, but a resource for new artists looking for connections, help, and an entry-way to the music world. 

He said he wants Woke Studios to be a social enterprise and an artistic residency so that it benefits the artist the most. He added that the music industry right now is a “minefield” that many newcomers don’t know much about, so he wants to help them navigate it. 

“It’s time for us to settle down and start building,” he said. 

Featured image by Quest.

Sourced From Nigerian Music

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