L.A. Parent


Published February 29, 2024
Elena Epstein

Meet Grammy Award-winning musician and L.A. Dad Omar Akram.

For Omar Akram, music is the fabric of his life. He grew up living in different parts of the world, but always surrounded by music—a mixture of traditional Afghan melodies of his family’s homeland and European classical music. Culture and family bonds are the essence of this Grammy Award-winning musician. His latest album “Moments of Beauty” is a reflection of his own childhood memories and the family he has created.

Q: You have a wonderfully diverse background. Please share with us a little about your cultural background and all the different places you have lived.

Thank you! I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderfully diverse upbringing that has greatly influenced my music. Born in New York City to Afghan parents, I was immersed in a multicultural environment from the start. Throughout my life, I’ve lived in various vibrant cities around the world, including Paris, Prague, and Havana, Cuba. These experiences have exposed me to a wide range of cultures, languages, and artistic influences, which I’ve integrated into my music. My Afghan heritage, combined with my experiences living in different places, has shaped my identity as a composer and musician. It’s this diversity that fuels my passion for creating music that transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with audiences worldwide.

Q: What stands out most in your memory growing up?

One memory that stands out most from my childhood is the sound of music filling our home. Growing up in a household with Afghan parents deeply rooted in their cultural heritage, music was an integral part of our daily lives. I remember the melodies of traditional Afghan music echoing through our home, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. Additionally, alongside the sounds of Afghan music, we often listened to European classical music, further enriching my musical upbringing. My parents’ love for music, whether it be traditional Afghan tunes or the works of European composers, inspired me from a young age, sparking my interest in playing the piano and igniting a passion for music that would shape my future. This early exposure to a diverse array of musical styles not only cultivated my musical talents but also instilled in me a deep appreciation for the power of music to connect people and transcend cultural boundaries.

Q: You are now raising your kids in Los Angeles. Tell us a little about how parenthood has changed you and how your family influences your music.

Parenthood has been an incredibly transformative journey for me, reshaping my outlook on life and influencing my music in profound ways. Raising my children in Los Angeles has brought a new dimension of joy, responsibility, and inspiration to my life and art.

Becoming a parent has deepened my capacity for love and empathy. It’s opened my eyes to the wonders of the world through the innocent and curious perspectives of my children. Parenthood has grounded me, teaching me patience, resilience, and the importance of being present in the moment.

My family serves as a wellspring of inspiration for my music. The experiences, emotions, and moments shared with my children find their way into my compositions, infusing them with authenticity and heartfelt expression. Whether it’s a playful melody inspired by their laughter or a tender piece reflecting the bond between parent and child, my family’s influence is woven into the fabric of my music.

Moreover, parenthood has heightened my awareness of the world around me. I’m more attuned to the beauty and complexity of human emotions, relationships, and the interconnectedness of all living beings. These insights shape the themes and messages in my music, guiding me to create compositions that resonate with listeners on a deep emotional level.
In essence, parenthood has changed me in ways I never imagined, enriching my life and music with love, meaning and purpose. My family continues to be my greatest source of inspiration, driving me to create music that speaks to the universal experience of love, growth and connection.

Q: Tell us about the cultural dynamic of your household. How are you bringing your own rich cultural heritage into your parenting? What cultural legacy would you most like to pass down to your kids?

The cultural dynamic of our household is incredibly rich and diverse, reflecting a blend of Afghan heritage and the multicultural influences we’ve experienced living in Los Angeles. We make a conscious effort to embrace and celebrate our cultural heritage, weaving its traditions, values, and language into our everyday lives.

One way we bring our cultural heritage into parenting is through food. Cooking traditional Afghan dishes together as a family not only connects us to our roots but also provides an opportunity to pass down family recipes and culinary traditions to our children. We also celebrate cultural holidays and festivals, sharing stories and customs that have been passed down through generations.

Language is another important aspect of our cultural legacy. We speak Dari, the Afghan dialect of Persian, at home, ensuring that our children are fluent in their mother tongue and can communicate with relatives overseas. Through language, we preserve our cultural identity and foster a strong sense of belonging to the Afghan community.

Beyond these tangible aspects, we strive to instill in our children the values of compassion, resilience, and respect for diversity that are deeply rooted in Afghan culture. We teach them about the rich history and traditions of Afghanistan, instilling pride in their cultural heritage and encouraging them to embrace their identity as Afghan-Americans.

As parents, our greatest hope is to pass down a legacy of cultural pride, resilience, and compassion to our children. We want them to cherish and honor their Afghan heritage while also embracing the diversity of the world around them. Our cultural legacy is not just something to be preserved but something to be shared and celebrated, enriching their lives and shaping their identities in profound ways.

Q: You have said that “Moments of Beauty” is a reflection of your childhood memories and the family you have created. Tell us more about that.

“Moments of Beauty” is indeed a reflection of both my cherished childhood memories and the beautiful family I’ve been fortunate to create. This album is deeply personal to me, as it captures the essence of the moments that have shaped my life and inspired my music.

From my childhood days filled with laughter, exploration, and the unconditional love of my family, to the precious moments I now share with my own children, “Moments of Beauty” encapsulates the joy, wonder, and profound connections that define the human experience.

Each composition on the album is a musical portrait, painting a vivid picture of the moments that have left an indelible mark on my heart. Whether it’s the playful melodies that evoke memories of carefree days spent with loved ones or the poignant harmonies that capture the tenderness and intimacy of family bonds, every note is infused with the essence of love, gratitude, and reverence for life’s fleeting beauty.

In creating “Moments of Beauty,” I sought to capture the timeless essence of these cherished memories and distill them into a musical tapestry that speaks to the universal experience of love, connection, and the beauty found in the everyday moments of life.

Ultimately, this album is my heartfelt tribute to the family who has shaped me, the memories that have sustained me, and the beauty that surrounds us all, waiting to be discovered in the simple joys of everyday life.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?

From a young age, I felt a deep connection to music, but I didn’t always know that I wanted to pursue it as a career. Growing up in a household filled with the sounds of traditional Afghan music and European classical pieces, I was drawn to the piano early on and began taking lessons as a child. Music became a way for me to express myself and connect with the world around me.

As I continued to study and play the piano, my passion for music grew stronger, and I found myself drawn to composition as a means of self-expression. It wasn’t until later in my teenage years that I began to seriously consider a career in music. The encouragement of my family and mentors, along with my own growing love for composing and performing, eventually led me to pursue music as a profession.

Looking back, I realize that music has always been a central part of my identity, guiding me on a path of creativity, exploration, and self-discovery. While I may not have always known that I wanted to be a musician, it’s clear to me now that music chose me, shaping my life in ways I could have never imagined.

Q: If you weren’t creating beautiful music, what would you be doing?

If I weren’t creating beautiful music, I imagine I would still be involved in some form of creative expression or artistic endeavor. Perhaps I would explore other avenues within the arts, such as visual arts, writing, or even filmmaking. I’ve always been drawn to storytelling and the power of artistic expression to connect with people on a deep emotional level.

Alternatively, I could see myself pursuing a career that allows me to make a positive impact on the world in a different way, such as working in humanitarian aid, education, or environmental advocacy. I’m passionate about social justice and environmental sustainability, and I believe in using my talents and skills to contribute to meaningful causes that benefit society and the planet.

Regardless of the specific path I might have taken, I know that creativity, empathy, and a desire to make a difference would have continued to guide my journey, shaping my choices and influencing the impact I strive to make in the world.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me often begins with some quiet time for reflection and meditation, setting a positive tone for the day ahead. I then like to start my morning with a cup of coffee while reviewing my schedule and prioritizing tasks for the day.

My days are quite varied depending on my commitments, but they usually involve a mix of creative work, administrative tasks, and personal activities. If I’m working on composing new music or preparing for a performance, I’ll spend several hours at the piano, experimenting with melodies, harmonies, and arrangements.

In between creative sessions, I may have meetings or calls with collaborators, producers, or other members of my team to discuss upcoming projects, brainstorm ideas, or review progress. I also set aside time for administrative tasks such as responding to emails, managing social media, and planning future releases or performances.

As a parent, family time is a priority for me, so I always make sure to carve out time in my day to spend with my children, whether it’s playing together, helping with homework, or simply enjoying a meal as a family.

In the evenings, I try to wind down with some relaxation activities, such as reading, listening to music, or going for a walk. I find that taking time to recharge and unwind helps me maintain balance and perspective in both my personal and professional life.

Overall, while each day may bring its own unique challenges and opportunities, I strive to approach it with a sense of purpose, creativity, and gratitude, making the most of each moment and staying true to my passions and priorities.

Q: How do you handle the juggle between being an artist and a dad?

Handling the juggle between being an artist and a dad can certainly be a balancing act, but it’s one that I embrace wholeheartedly. For me, family always comes first, so I prioritize quality time with my children and ensure that I’m actively involved in their lives despite the demands of my music career.

One way I manage this juggle is by establishing clear boundaries and schedules that allow me to dedicate specific time to both my artistic pursuits and my role as a father. I strive to maintain a sense of balance by setting aside designated hours for creative work while also carving out ample time for family activities and responsibilities.

Communication is key in navigating this juggle, so I make sure to keep open lines of communication with my family about my schedule and commitments. By involving them in the process and seeking their understanding and support, I’m able to find harmony between my two roles and ensure that neither aspect of my life is neglected.

Flexibility is also important, as unexpected challenges and opportunities can arise at any moment. I’ve learned to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace the ebb and flow of balancing my artistic career with fatherhood, knowing that both are equally important and fulfilling aspects of my life.

Ultimately, being an artist and a dad is a beautiful journey filled with joys, challenges, and endless opportunities for growth. By staying present, prioritizing what matters most, and embracing the inherent balance between my artistic passion and my family life, I’m able to navigate this juggle with grace and gratitude.

Q: Best life advice you received growing up?

The best life advice I received growing up was to always stay true to myself and follow my passion wholeheartedly. This advice encouraged me to embrace my unique talents, interests, and values, and to pursue a path that resonated with my authentic self, rather than conforming to external expectations or societal norms.

By honoring this advice, I’ve been able to cultivate a sense of authenticity and fulfillment in everything I do, whether it’s in my music career, my role as a parent, or my personal pursuits. It has empowered me to trust my instincts, take risks, and embrace the journey of self-discovery with courage and conviction.

Moreover, this advice has taught me the importance of staying resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks, knowing that staying true to myself will ultimately lead me down the path of greatest fulfillment and purpose.

In essence, the best life advice I received growing up has been a guiding light throughout my journey, reminding me to embrace authenticity, follow my passion, and live with integrity and purpose.

Q: Did you have a mentor growing up? If so, tell us about that person and what insights you gained from that person.

Yes, I had a mentor growing up who played a significant role in shaping my musical journey and personal development. My piano teacher, who also served as a conductor and principal pianist at the Prague Symphony, was not only a skilled musician but also a compassionate and inspiring mentor. Under her guidance, I learned the importance of consistent practice, attention to detail, and perseverance in pursuing my musical goals. She challenged me to push beyond my comfort zone, explore new techniques, and strive for excellence in every performance. Additionally, she instilled in me a strong sense of creativity and expression, encouraging me to infuse my music with emotion, authenticity, and personal interpretation. Overall, her mentorship was transformative, shaping not only my musical skills but also my character, values and outlook on life.

Q: What would you tell your middle school self?

Overall, if I could offer advice to my middle school self, it would be to embrace the inherent worth, capabilities, and deservingness of happiness and success. While middle school undoubtedly presents its challenges and obstacles, it is also a pivotal time marked by profound growth, self-discovery, and boundless opportunities waiting to be seized. Amidst the tumultuous journey of adolescence, it’s crucial to recognize and affirm one’s inherent value and potential. Each trial and tribulation encountered along the way serves as a steppingstone for personal development and resilience-building. Therefore, rather than being disheartened by setbacks or deterred by self-doubt, it’s essential to approach life’s challenges with courage, optimism, and unwavering self-belief. Middle school is a transformative period characterized by exploration, experimentation, and the cultivation of one’s unique identity. By staying true to oneself, embracing authenticity, and nurturing passions and aspirations, one can unlock the limitless possibilities that await on the horizon. Never underestimate the power of dreams and aspirations—they are the guiding lights that illuminate the path towards a future brimming with fulfillment, purpose and achievement. So, my dear middle school self, trust in your abilities, embrace the journey with open arms and never lose sight of the incredible potential that resides within you.

Q: Best and worst decision of your life?

Reflecting on the best and worst decisions of my life, one decision stands out as both the best and the worst: pursuing a career in music. Choosing to devote my life to music has been the best decision because it has allowed me to pursue my passion, share my art with the world, and find deep fulfillment in my creative expression. Music has brought immense joy, purpose, and meaning to my life, enriching every moment with its beauty and resonance.

However, this decision has also presented its challenges and uncertainties, making it one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. The music industry can be unpredictable and competitive, requiring perseverance, resilience and unwavering dedication to succeed. There have been moments of doubt, setbacks, and struggles along the way, testing my resolve and pushing me to my limits.

Yet, despite the challenges and sacrifices, I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything. The highs have been unparalleled—the exhilaration of performing on stage, the joy of connecting with audiences through my music and the fulfillment of seeing my dreams come to fruition. And even in the lowest moments, music has been a source of solace, strength, and inspiration, guiding me through the darkest of times.

In hindsight, choosing to pursue a career in music has been both the best and worst decision of my life. It has been a journey marked by triumphs and tribulations, growth and transformation, but above all, it has been a journey filled with passion, purpose and profound meaning. And for that, I am endlessly grateful.

Q: Best parenting advice that you use yourself and you would like to share with all parents.

The best parenting advice I’ve found invaluable and would like to share with all parents is to prioritize presence over perfection. Being present with your children, actively listening to them, engaging in meaningful conversations, and sharing quality time together is far more important than trying to be the perfect parent. Embrace the messy moments, celebrate the small victories, and cherish the precious memories you create with your children along the way. Remember that your love and presence are the greatest gifts you can give them.

Q: When not working, where will we find you?

When I’m not working, you’ll often find me spending quality time with my family, whether we’re exploring nature together, enjoying a cozy movie night at home, or trying out new recipes in the kitchen. I also enjoy immersing myself in literature, taking leisurely walks in the outdoors, and pursuing creative hobbies like photography or painting. Additionally, I find solace and rejuvenation in practicing mindfulness and meditation, which helps me stay grounded and centered amidst life’s busyness. Ultimately, I strive to balance work with activities that bring me joy, fulfillment, and connection with the people and experiences that matter most to me.

Q: What are some of your favorite spots and activities in and around L.A. to enjoy as a family?

We love exploring Griffith Park, hitting the beaches in Santa Monica or Malibu, and visiting museums like LACMA and the California Science Center. Downtown L.A.’s landmarks and family-friendly spots are also favorites, as are outdoor adventures like horseback riding and biking. L.A.’s cultural festivals and events add to the excitement. We’re definitely making the most of it as a family!

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