By Zachary R. Lee

Editor’s note: The Bangor Daily News has partnered with the Telling Room to showcase budding young journalists as they turn a critical eye toward the world in which we live. Read more about the project, and the rest of the students’ pieces, here.

PORTLAND, Maine — The musician Ahmad Hassan Muhammad, who goes by the name Kafari, grew up in Cincinnati with two siblings. His mom was a single parent.

“We learned to stay occupied, because our mom didn’t have all the time in the world,” Kafari said in a 2018 episode of The Key Changers, a series on musicians by Tribeca Studios.

One day, his mom brought home a keyboard, and that was when he first discovered music. It wasn’t until his first jazz piano teacher came into his life that Kafari discovered the healing power of playing the blues. Today, he has built a successful career, and in 2017 he had his own Ted Talk on cultural appropriation with collaborator Jake Hoffman.

But even with all that, Kafari still finds time to help teach teens how to express themselves.

“Working with high schoolers has been a beautiful challenge,” Kafari said. “We need our young people to develop these tools. These tools to express, to feel.”

On July 21, Kafari held a virtual concert via Instagram where he played many new songs.

Today, I’ll be taking a look at two of them: His first number, simply titled “Opening,” and his last, simply titled “Closing.” Right off the bat, if you’ve heard either of them you know that these are two very different songs. One is a groovy beat played on the rhythm bones and the other is a soothing atmospheric piano melody.

First off, let’s start with the opening. This one had me bopping my head in my chair. How can you not? It’s such a lively upbeat rhythm. The way Kafari plays those bones is like nothing you’ve ever seen, and it’s captivating to watch. I’d never seen anyone play rhythm bones before, and they are a very cool instrument that I plan to look for more of in the future.

Great performance, great beat. Very enjoyable.

Next is a very different kind of song, “Closing.”

For his final number, Kafari went for a softer, more atmospheric piano piece. I always love when a concert ends on a quieter note. It’s a great way to close out a performance. The melody is very emotional and almost euphoric. Kafari tenderly plays the keys with lots of grace, and it’s awesome. It’s a gorgeous piano melody as soothing and melodic as it is raw and personal. Great song.

Overall, Ahmed Kafari delivers an excellent performance with excellent tunes. I highly recommend you check it out on Instagram if you can. Kafari is a ray of light in these trying times.