Hisham Kharma

Melodies Without Borders

In a world where music knows no borders, Hisham Kharma stands out as a visionary composer who combines artistry and innovation to create melodies that defy conventional limits. Shaped by his undergraduate studies in computer science followed by a degree in art direction and creative advertising, it’s safe to say that his journey in music is far from ordinary. It is evident that his determination to push the boundaries of his craft while staying true to himself, has been infusing his compositions with a depth that goes beyond the usual musical notes. eniGma’s Farida Elserty had the opportunity to sit down with the beloved composer to delve into his love for music and his unique journey to success.

Hisham Kharma’s professional journey feels like a perfect mixtape, blending various elements seamlessly in his musical ventures. His computer science studies and his ability to solve problems mix effortlessly with his artistic flair, resulting in a cool fusion of order and creativity. “Studying computer science at the American University of Cairo (AUC) was a game-changer for my music career. It helped me think and execute projects in a more organised way. It also fueled my love for technology, which I see as a big driver for innovation,” he recounts.

After completing his computer science studies at AUC, Kharma took a leap into Art Direction at the Miami Ad School in the United States. Today, the visual knowledge he gained in art direction feels like a trusted ally, that helps him craft soundscapes that resonate deeply with his audience. Kharma is convinced that his unique blend of disciplines adds layers of depth and dimension to his musical compositions. “To me, creativity knows no bounds. Exploring art direction and creative advertising has been priceless for my music career, shifting my approach from mere compositions to rich conceptual endeavours,” he explains. “The change in perspective made me more attentive to details, from designing album artwork to selecting light colours for live performances,” he adds.

Hisham Kharma at Egypt’s Entrepreneur Awards

Fueled by a desire for authenticity, Kharma embraced the freedom to fully express his artistic vision, and almost seamlessly transitioned from the advertising industry to music. The skills he acquired as a creative director, crafting campaigns and weaving narratives, served to enrich the storytelling he would weave into his musical creations.

“Initially, I viewed music merely as a hobby. At the same time, my entry into the advertising field was coincidental, driven by the need for a stable job in a creative domain. Fortunately, my affinity for advertising grew on the job, and when I eventually chose to make a shift, it influenced my music career significantly,” he says, reflecting on his unconventional journey from music as a hobby to a profession.

Hisham Kharma at Opera’s Summer Festival

“My dual roles, as a creative director and as a musician, are not disparate, they are threads intricately woven into the fabric of my creative journey. For me, the common thread between advertising and music, is a passion for creativity. While music is a purely artistic pursuit, advertising is a more commercial form of art,” he explains. This duality allows him to express his artistic passion through music, while also incorporating his advertising skills to the marketing of his musical endeavours.

Kharma describes his unique journey as a constant adventure that mixes modern beats with traditional sounds to break through genre boundaries. “Maintaining your unique musical style can be challenging, especially when experimenting and aligning with market trends.” he says, adding, “But I consider myself lucky to be able to treat my music as both a profession and a personal passion.”

The diverse cities where kharma has lived in have also been part of his journey and have left an indelible mark on his music. Inspired by the mix of cultures he has experienced, his music acts like a bridge, connecting people from different backgrounds through melody. “Exposure to different cultures and ideas has enriched my musical palette, allowing me to incorporate a variety of influences into my work,” he explains.

Hisham Kharma at the Opening Ceremony of World Cup Gymnastics 2023

Kharma’s live performances transcend the traditional concert experience. The meticulous planning and attention to detail in his concerts reflect his commitment to providing an immersive journey, where the music becomes a living, breathing entity. Each note becomes a brushstroke, painting a vivid sonic picture that captivates audiences.

“I am thankful for the recognition of our musical performances as world-class. The universality of our music resonates with diverse audiences. The exceptional talent of my musicians, as well as sounds from the East to the West, makes attending our shows an immersive journey for our audience,” Kharma explains. Adding to his draw, are the iconic landmarks where he holds many of his concerts. “I enjoy performing at iconic landmarks. My most memorable performances were, of course, at the Pyramids of Giza, the Cairo Citadel, and London Mansion House,” he asserts, proudly.

Each of Kharma’s chart-topping albums and singles represents a unique musical journey, reflecting a blend of inspirations. “For me, my first album, Al Yaqeen, stands out as one of my top-charting albums that coincided with the launch of my live performances. More recently, Kholkhal, draws from the distinct sound of 80s Egyptian music but with a modern twist,” he explains.

Composing music for films and series has been another intriguing and unique experience for Kharma. To him, projects like the Al Nehaya series and Suits Arabia aren’t just soundtracks; they’re emotional narratives set to music. “Al Nehaya was my first scoring project, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was glued to their screens at home; while working on Suits was a thrilling experience. Despite its international origin, we had to infuse it with our Egyptian flavour,” he recalls, noting that scoring for visual media adds an extra layer of complexity, requiring him to tap into a different dimension of creativity that enhances the storytelling experience for audiences.

Kharma explains that transitioning from creating standalone music to composing for visual media demanded a shift in his creative approach. “It’s not just about crafting melodies; it’s about capturing the essence of an event or theme,” he says. “When scoring for visual media, my role is to contribute to the storytelling through music. The collaborative aspect involved has been instrumental in uncovering new creative discoveries for me,” he adds. His ability to evoke emotional resonance with the audience is a testament to the success of his nuanced approach in this specialised field.

In addition to his remarkable film creations, Kharma has also demonstrated his talent in crafting official musical themes for various events. These have included global events such as COP27 and local celebrations like the Cairo Drama Festival. For the official music theme for COP27, Kharma’s goal was to capture the essence of this significant global event held in Egypt, infusing it with grandeur by integrating universal, epic, and global sounds, with a subtle Middle Eastern influence. For the inaugural edition of the Cairo Drama Festival, his aim was to create a theme exuding elegance and sophistication that set the tone for the festival’s debut, ensuring a memorable experience for the audience.

Kharma’s contributions also extended to such high-profile events as the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade where he composed the music for the short film, Egypt, the Land of Civilisation, featuring acclaimed actor Khaled El Nabawy. He recalls how working on such a monumental project witnessed by millions of people around the world filled him with immense excitement and pride. The Artistic Gymnastics World Cup is another significant milestone which fostered collaboration between different disciplines in his musical journey. The seamless integration of music and gymnastics at the opening of the event resulted in a holistic and synchronised show, highlighting the power of collaboration across diverse artistic realms.

Kharma’s diverse compositions result from his meticulous approach to each project. Whether it’s a live concert, film scoring, or a global event theme, he tailors the music to ensure it encapsulates the essence of the occasion. “Each music project possesses its unique essence and demands. What consistently directs me is the emotion I aim to express. Another critical consideration is the orchestration—contemplating how the intended emotion or melodic concept will manifest in terms of sound,” he explains.

Kharma stresses that his guiding principle is exploring new sounds while staying true to one’s unique voice. “For young, aspiring musicians, my advice is, ‘stay true to your unique sound and instincts, and learn and embrace the evolving landscape of the music world.’ It requires effort, and the journey is not always easy, but I assure you, the rewards are worth it if you commit to putting in the effort,” he advises.

Reflecting his profound understanding of the emotional and healing impact that music can have on individuals, Kharma is also involved in music therapy. To that end, he engages in music therapy at the Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357. “I had initiated the concept of music therapy sessions Soundscape featuring chilled down-tempo music at sunset on the beach. Then last year, my team and I decided to extend this experience to the wonderful young patients at the 57357 Cancer Hospital. The resulting experience was so beautiful that words cannot adequately describe it,” he recalls.

Looking forward, Kharma has a full schedule ahead. He is exploring new sonic territories and is collaborating on several exciting projects. “I’m currently involved in creating the music for the Artistic Gymnastic World Cup 2024, in addition to working on two upcoming releases. An EP is also set to be released soon,” he concludes.

Dressed in Dior

Photographer Ehab Zakaria

Publicist Samar Yassin