"Where I Belong" is the stunning debut by World instrumental composer/musician SAJJAD. Four years in the making, the music is dynamic, energetic, and soul-stirring. A self-taught pianist/keyboardist from the age of eleven, SAJJAD was born in Bangladesh and grew up in Germany; he is now a naturalized Canadian citizen working in Toronto. SAJJAD earned his undergraduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, and has been working in the Information Technology field, financing this recording project with his “day job.” The title of the album refers to the fact that music is where his heart is and where he really wants to be. Well, I have to say that if SAJJAD can maintain this level of quality in his future recordings, his musical future should be very bright indeed! In addition to his own playing and composing, SAJJAD was able to enlist the talents of several world-class musicians to collaborate and add their own signature touches to the music. Co-producer John Jamieson also contributed his own magic. Comparisons to other musicians aren’t necessary, but it would be a safe bet that if you enjoy Yanni’s earlier music and Omar Akram, you’ll love SAJJAD, too. His energy and pure joy at making music are infectious, and utilizing diverse instruments from all over the world helps to create a universal musical language.
The title song opens "Where I Belong," a soulful piece that includes Ron Korb on ethnic flutes and Kevin Fox on cello along with SAJJAD’s keyboards - a brilliant beginning! “In My Spirit” is more like an African folk song with vocals, a strong beat, and swirling energy. “End of Eternity” has Michael Massaro’s fantastic sax playing, a strong vibrant rhythm, and the feeling of soaring. “Moment of Chance” pumps up the rhythm again and sends your feet dancing - such wonderful, joyful enthusiasm! If you can sit still with this piece, you might want to verify you have a pulse! “Stay With Me” goes in a different direction with a tender love song. Piano, strings, light percussion and keyboard washes make this a gentle beauty. “No Walls Between Us” is another lovely ballad, this time introducing the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed instrument that gives an exotic Asian flavor to the more western strings, keyboard and percussion. The only piece with lyrics is the extraordinary “Far Away,” co-written and sung by Cyndi Richards, whose rich and earthy voice conveys passion that raises goose-bumps. Johannes Linstead’s guitar provides the “voice” of the male counterpart to Richards’ female vocalist - sizzling! Tony Carlucci’s horn is a deeply emotional addition. Carlucci also leads into “Something Amazing,” a concluding piece that includes piano, guitar, violin, cello, and drums. Whew! What a ride!
SAJJAD’s music has burst on the world with passion, love, and optimism that sparkle while revealing a bold new musical voice. Bravo!!! I give it my highest recommendation!
Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus
It is rare that an artist releases a debut album that garners such critical acclaim that it not only receives a Best New Artist award and nominations for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album and Best World Music Album but is also compared to veteran super stars like Yanni and John Tesh. However, these honors are a reality for SAJJAD. Although, he is quick to give much-deserved credit to fellow Canadian John Jamieson at Soundhouse Studios who not only co-produced the album, but also became an invaluable collaborator on many levels. SAJJAD creates much of his music on piano and synthesizers, which can easily produce the sound of just about any instrument. Yet, he felt it important to augment his creations with real instruments played by the best musicians he could find, More than fifteen top players and highly respected industry professionals lent their talents to the project, giving it a “buoyant collaborative energy and lending an impressive credibility.”
The music charts a course through various passages – a bit of Celtic influence via Uillean pipes and Irish whistle, an ancient Chinese instrument, Flamenco guitar, a soaring soprano sax melody, and sections of richly orchestrated string section and keyboards, all anchored by solid drum beats providing momentum. This blending of diverse instruments and motifs turns out to be a trademark of SAJJAD’s music and highlights his seriously impressive skills as a composer and arranger. A lot of SAJJAD’s compositions have a cinematic quality to them.
This is music that will invite repeated listening and I found that every time I would go back and listen to a track again, I would hear something I hadn’t heard before. I have to give a lot of credit to SAJJAD and his collaborator John Jamieson for the remarkable job they have done in weaving all these diverse elements and musical talents into a sonic tapestry of epic proportion. Where I Belong is an extremely ambitious undertaking that signals the arrival of a talented musician, composer, arranger, and performer that I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more of.