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By Tiffany Rider, Senior Writer
February 5, 2013 – After 16 years of producing music, Long Beach new age pianist and songwriter Omar Akram has been nominated for a Grammy award for his album, “Echoes of Love.”
The Afghan-American recording artist was born in New York. The son of a United Nations diplomat, Akram has lived in such diverse countries as Afghanistan, Cuba, the Czech Republic and France. Trained as a classical pianist, Akram’s songwriting is influenced by the music of these regions.
Akram got involved in the music industry when he moved to the Los Angeles area in the 1990s. In 1996, Dr. E. Mike Vasilomanolakis was approached by a friend to invest in a musician who was looking for assistance in getting a record deal.
Vasilomanolakis, vice chief of staff and director of cardiology for Community Hospital of Long Beach, met with Akram one week later to listen to his music. Moved by the sounds Akram created,Vasilomanolakis agreed to help him record an album. “I was moved by the music and I thought to myself, ‘It takes an exceptional talent to make music like this. This is a person who will go far if the appropriate environment is presented to him,’” Vasilomanolakis told the Business Journal.
Vasilomanolakis became Akram’s executive producer and worked with him to produce “Opal Fire.” Record label executives from Real Music in Sausalito, California, soon heard Akram’s music and signed him to their label and released his first album in 2002. Akram released albums “Free As a Bird” in 2004 and “Secret Journey” in 2007. The latter peaked at #12 on Billboard’s Top New Age Albums chart that year.
The “Echoes of Love” album, he said, came out of the experiences of getting married and becoming a father “Along with Dr. Mike, we spent over two years working on this album,” Akram said. “He and I would work together. We would play the music for ourselves in the studio. He would be the only person listening to a song. Once everything came together and was released, we had such an incredible response; it was overwhelming.”
Thousands of albums are sent from all over the world to the Recording Academy of America in Santa Monica, where committees review the music and establish which albums qualify for Grammy nominations, according to Akram. “I’m actually a voting member of the recording academy myself, so I vote for the Grammy award,” he said. “There are about 90 of those CDs that have been qualified for nomination for a genre. Then we went ahead and voted. Six of those were nominated for a Grammy award as best new age album, and ‘Echoes of Love’ was one of them.”
For Vasilomanolakis, it is an honor to have Akram recognized as a Grammy nominee. “The bottom line is you have to persist, and that’s what we did,” he said.
“It means everything that we’ve worked for so far in the past 16 years,” Akram echoed. “Our first album came out in 2002, and since then we’ve been working hard paying our dues. So here we are being nominated, finally being recognized for something that we have worked so hard on. It’s very exciting.”
The 55th annual Grammy Awards ceremony airs February 10 at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on CBS. For more information on the ceremony, visit www.grammy.com.