An Interview with Karim of Baha’i R’n'B Hip-Hop duo Nabil & Karim

Karim left, and Nabil to the right. (Image courtesy: Matts Vai)

What happens when two good friends living in Canada decide to get together and collaborate on creating music which brings the Baha’i Writings to life in a fresh and contemporary way? The answer is simple: Nabil & Karim.

The smooth grooves of music duo Nabil & Karim were born when Nabil (a Persian-Canadian Baha’i who was raised in Portugal), and Karim (an Egyptian-Irishman born in Haiti and raised in India and Canada) were studying audio production in Canada together, and with the encouragement of their local Baha’i community, they started working on putting the Sacred Writings to music for community events.

I’ve got both of their albums, and I know tons of Baha’is around the world who love their music too, so I was super-excited to be able to catch up with Karim and ask him a few questions about himself and the duo!

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you guys got together?

We met in college, it was a rainy day, the sun had just fallen behind the horizon… but seriously we studied audio production at Metal Works Institute in Mississauga. The Baha’i community at Mississauga strongly encouraged us to perform at Holy Day events and that was a big reason why we started making songs together. We both come from pioneering families, Nabil’s family pioneered to Portugal and mine to Haiti and India. Nabil plays guitar and sings and I rap and beatbox. Nabil is health conscious and fit and I am the opposite of that. But we both try our best to be spiritually fit. We have very different tastes in music but when we come together…   

Baha’i Blog: What were your intentions when you started with your first album, for instance why did you think that making these albums was important?

Our intentions were to make music for Baha’i junior youth as an alternative to what they hear on the radio. Music is a powerful tool so to use it in the right way is something of great importance.  

Baha’i Blog: What’s the general response been from the Baha’i community?

The general response has been extremely positive, from babies to the young at heart.  

Baha’i Blog: Where’s your strongest fan base?

We don’t have fans, we have friends. A lot of them are in the States.

Baha’i Blog: There’s not much R&B music out there for Baha’is and your style is definitely popular amongst a lot of young Baha’is especially in the West. Why do think this is important?

I think it is important because this is the type of music that young people today know and can relate to, so to have similar sounding music infused with the writing of their faith is beneficial in my opinion. 

Baha’i Blog: What sort of effects do you hope your music can have on listeners?

I hope that it inspires change and gives them something to identify themselves with. 

Baha’i Blog: Do you guys perform a lot and is this something you like to do?

We do not perform that much but we definitely enjoy the live element of music and interacting with the audience.  

Baha’i Blog: Who are some of your musical inspirations and influences?

For me, it’s Tupac Shakur, Talib Kweli, and the Backstreet Boys, oh and actually, a big inspiration as well is Tallis Newkirk, aka Tallisman.  For Nabil, it’s Craig David, Boys to Men, and Baha’i musicians Nima Mazloomi, Khatera Khamsi and Ann-Sofie Wensbo.  

Baha’i Blog: Is the music something you do as a side thing or service? If it’s not your professional career, what do you guys actually do for a living?

Nabil is a social-worker. I am a volunteer at Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute. We do the music thing as a service to humanity. 

Baha’i Blog: Appprox how long does it take to work on each album and what are some of the challenges you’ve faced.

On the second album, we both took two weeks out of our schedule to create it, but we both got sick for the first week. So, we finished it in a week and it was intense.

Baha’i Blog: Do you hope to keep pumping out the albums? Do you have a goal like one album a year, or are you just going with the flow?

We go with the flow.

Baha’i Blog: Where do you hope to see the state of Baha’i inspired music in the upcoming years?

I hope to see Baha’is galvanizing their artistic selves.  The Writings have so much inspiration to offer and the world is looking for inspiration. When we use the words of Baha’u'llah as inspiration for our creative works, the affect we can have is heightened.    

Baha’i Blog: Do you have a message to all of your fans out there?

I don’t feel like I have fans, first of all. Second of all, enough questions. Just kidding. But seriously, if you enjoy the music that Nabil and I have made, I would like you to know that you can make it too, probably better than we did. If you are inspired by the writings of Baha’u'llah, you can achieve great things!

Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Karim, I know things have been really busy for you both lately. Keep up the great work and I hope we continue to hear you both pumping out the tunes!

Stay up to date with Nabil & Karim by following them on their Facebook page, and you can also buy their albums here.

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for more than a decade and he’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. He has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the DawnBreaker Collective and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of MANA albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the Building Momentum and Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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Discussion 4 Comments

  1. After seeing Nabil and Karim’s “Z like double A logo,” which as a designer I would say is not only clever, but brilliant, I am looking forward to hearing their music. They are setting an example and seem to be doing things right.

  2. I had two good friends living in Canada, back in the 1950s, but their names were not Nabil & Karim and we did not produce music. At the time there were less than 1000 Baha’is in all of Canada, not the 30,000 that there now are. More than 50 years later it is good to see people like Nabil and Karim putting the Sacred Writings to music for community events.

    I got into music in the ’60s for community events, and have had half a century into music in different ways….go to this sub-section of my website for some of my takes and experiences with music in the Baha’i community and other communities of interest: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/Music.html

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