“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Matt Damon (written by Benjamin Mee)
Karim did it in 12 seconds.
12 seconds of insane courage and vulnerability changed the course of his life.
Karim Terouz made Montreal his home in 2008. Two albums under his belt with “The Rising Few”, he now goes under the moniker Terouz. His voice has been likened to David Bowie, but I feel it’s a mix of Bowie and Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy over 80s/90s synth beats.
Both Karim and I chose the graphic for Burn as our backdrop. Mine is digital, Karim’s is the last of his prints, a design that took him 1 month to create and would be featured in his Burn video.
Karim’s two artistic arcs finally intersected after 20 years of hard work. Since the age of 19, he’s been an Illustrator by trade, but he is also making a name for himself in the music business with his new project: Terouz.
It was back in Cairo that a song sparked his act of courage that forever change the course of his life.
“It was the same day I found my calling, the day I was listening to Springsteen’s Live in New York.
It was his rendition of The River and how he commanded a crowd of 80,000 people.
I don’t know how he did it, but it stirred something in me, to see how somebody could be so vulnerable on stage and yet so powerful.
I enjoyed the fact that he can go on stage and say: I must be felt…and it is done.
That’s what I wanted for myself, at the age of 17.
That same day, I went to the Cairo Jazz Club, the most happening place, music wise. It was special just to make it in there, but somehow, I did. There was a local DJ spinning tracks. I didn’t know anybody, I was on my own and on my third beer (Egyptian Stella). I saw he had a mic but was not necessarily inviting anyone on stage to sing along.
I just went for it. He passively passed me the mic. Whatever I did for that 12 seconds, I was just trying to emulate what I saw in Bruce, that morning.”
He doesn’t remember what happened for those brave 12 seconds, but when he opened his eyes, he said:
“The whole place was still. I must have done something, in a good way. They were all looking as if saying: What was that?
That’s when I knew. This is exactly what I will be doing.”
What Karim did was transfer energy, “to a place that was already happening.” Imagine the scene. The party is going on strong, people are dancing, couples and kissing, and then you stop, mesmerized by a presence on stage that is so powerful…the dancing, the kissing, the talking and even the waiters come to a full stop.
While Karim doesn’t remember those twelve seconds, he does remember “letting my voice go in falsetto, while imagining that Bruce moment, where he was in falsetto in the solo at the end of the track. He was not crying but weeping with his vocals to 80,000 people and it killed them.”
At around 8:30 in, my eyes got watery as I understood what Karim was referring to. Weeping, a balance of vulnerability and strength.
“I was remembering that moment and letting it rub off on the vocals that left my body. It added a melancholic, yet optimistic vibe to a room of people trying to have fun.”
Where would Karim be today, if he stayed in Cairo?
He doesn’t think about it a lot, but he knows that he had soaked up all he could there, and some further experiences would be had elsewhere.
That elsewhere ended up being Montreal, QC, where he had spent the tender years of 8 to 12 years old. Those experiences were enough to pull him back, when he was 25 years old.
Only after the Arab Spring did music get a foothold in Egypt. As Karim puts it: “After every great crisis, there is a surge in art.”
That statement brings hope as we look forward to the end of COVID-19.
Egyptian bands rose to the top of the Middle Eastern charts and these same bands would play music with Karim before the crisis, as he was discovering his musical identity.
His journey would take him on an alternate path, exploring English songwriting and performing, at first with The Rising Few.
At the age of 35, life dealt Karim a few blows and an uppercut, in the death of his father.
“It makes you rethink everything when you lose a loved one. It makes you re-weight everything in life…what you are going to keep and what you are going to leave.”
With that experience, his rose-colored glasses where now tinted grey. “There is death, mourning, loss and pain. It gives you a new perspective on how you will go forward. You lose that joie-de-vivre. That is why my art and music have a dark side to it, because it does reveal the cracks. It’s a visceral thing.”
Death reveals to us a finality and we are confronted with the knowledge that we have limited time to do what we want.
With that new perspective, Karim left his old band, and sought to find out who he was, what to write about, where to thread and how to stay on brand.
He realized that he wasn’t being true to his deeper brand and identify, which became his new project: Terouz.
“At the end of the day, it makes you say: What do I really want?”
I don’t believe that was a selfish pursuit, but there was a turning point for Karim at the age of 35 where his identity became clearer. He embraced his true identity and that made his music more powerful. He became his own “Boss”.
His first song and video was Outstanding, which shows us that when life tried to knock you down, you can still keep fighting.
I asked Karim what is worth fighting for?
“Your freedom to create, in order to heal.”
Karim is not afraid to self-heal. He will search out the painful parts of his life, and he will confront these, not only to heal himself, but to help others.
In the end, only after doing this work can you tell your story with honesty and authenticity.
Today, people use distractions and even things like drugs and alcohol to avoid dealing with past trauma. Only facing these full on, can we hope to heal ourselves, and more importantly, others.
Thinking about the second single Burn, I asked Karim if he “tamed the fire”?
“There are times to tame it, and times to let it out. That sweet spot is the game, to know when to draw fire, or to holster your gun. Getting angry or over passionate is not a crime, but there are times you have to step back. The song is about how you see yourself, transparency and knowing your limits.”
We have to fight for family, for love and for justice…these things we hold dear. But if you start the fire, there is always the risk of getting burned yourself, so there is a time to hold back.
The next single is about timeless betrayals and fratricide, titled Big Boy Games.
From Cain & Abel (Religious) onwards to Michael & Fredo (The Godfather Movie), Scar & Mufasa (The Lion King), Osiris & Set (Egyptian Mythology), Rolumlus & Remus (Roman Mythology), the quest for power has caused much suffering. Karim may take lessons from the past but writes for the present.
When he looks at what is happening on the political scene, he refers to it as Big Boy Games.
There is more hate than love in the world today, but artists see things from a different perspective, one we can all learn from.
Is this the time to lean into the fire and fight, or take a step back and take some punches?
Each has to decide for themselves, but like Karim, true courage comes from vulnerability and working on oneself, in order to change from within first.
“My job is clear. I’m an artist and I can slip my 10 cents worth and put things in perspective, show you what is at play here, and what is really going on.”
Terouz shows us this parallel universe where things can be different. You don’t have to agree, you can always skip to the next song, but it takes courage to consider different paths.
Twelve seconds of courage changed Terouz’s life and took him on the path to battle his trauma, slay those dragons, then sing about it.
In those twelve seconds, he released energy, enough to stop a party. With his latest single, he again strives to release energy to make us stop and think about what is important.
Who knows…maybe he is passing that courage on to you? What will you do with it?
Connect with Terouz
Writer: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music. You can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. His Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs with out of the box advice from Ted Talk Speakers, Best Selling Authors and other interesting Entrepreneurs and Creatives.Share this :