Meet Tariq Harb, Canada's next classical guitar superstar. Harb is one of CBC Music's Next! artists for 2013. Next! presents eight rising Canadian stars in classical music, recorded for broadcast on CBC Radio 2's In Concert. Below, you can learn about Harb, watch him perform and read our interview with him.
Harb was born in Jordan, and moved to Canada in 1999 to study finance at Concordia University. After completing his degree and working in this field, he decided to change careers at age 24. Seven years later, Harb finds himself pursuing doctoral studies with Jeffrey McFadden at the University of Toronto.
Harb received first prize at the Montreal International Classical Guitar Competition and second prize at the 55th Tokyo International Classical Guitar Competition. These and other international successes have placed him at the forefront of his generation of classical guitarists, and have led to concert appearances in North America, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia.
Watch CBC's exclusive video of Harb's Jan. 12 performance at Studio 211 in Toronto:
We wanted to know more, so we spoke with Harb.
What must you do before heading onstage to perform?
I can’t go onstage without first having a cup of tea and some dark chocolate. I like that. It helps me focus better, and the tea warms your hands, especially in winter. It works for me.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional guitarist?
If I wasn’t a full-time guitarist, I’d probably be a violinist, and if I wasn’t a musician altogether, I’d be an astronaut. I was fascinated by astronomy as a kid; my uncle used to have a telescope that we’d use to see the moon and other interesting objects. I still always enjoy reading about new discoveries in space.
Who is your favourite composer?
That’s difficult, as I was also a violinist. All-round, I would have to choose Bach, and for guitar I would choose Agustin Barrios Mangoré, a Paraguayan composer who wrote hundreds of pieces for guitar. I feel a very natural connection to Mangoré’s music, though I’m not sure why since I’m not from Paraguay. I visited once, and meeting the people there and learning about their lifestyles reminded me a lot from where I’m from in Jordan. We both display a natural kindness and warmth towards guests. If anyone visits [Jordan], you’ll be treated like kings and queens; they love tourists!
What might people be surprised to learn about you?
I was a financial advisor before pursuing guitar. I did my undergrad in finance, and I’ve worked at financial institutions, but it didn’t appeal to me. So I decided to quit and take on music as a full-time career. I also like dancing to house music; I don’t think many people know that about me.
What is your idea of happiness?
I think it all starts within us. For me, I could achieve happiness when I realized that everything in life I’ve done and experienced is all by my own making. That made me take responsibility for all my actions. So, if you want to be happy you can plan for it; by making goals and achieving them you feel fulfilled. Some people choose a spiritual path to achieve this, but ultimately it’s knowing what you want and knowing that it’s possible. If you plan with clear goals, things become achievable and that includes happiness as well.
What is the quality you like most in yourself?
Perseverance. Even in my finance degree I didn’t quit halfway through because I wanted to be really sure that it wasn’t for me. I think that’s a good quality for artists; we sometimes start projects and don’t necessarily finish them. It’s good to always go back and finish where we started, as that’s when we can say we really learned something from it and can “move on.”
What is your greatest fear?
Losing the passion towards discovery. When you start learning a new tune, you sometimes get a “chill effect” or sense of discovery that makes you want to learn more about the piece, the composer [and/or] the instrument. Losing that would be unfortunate; it would stop me from moving forward and wanting to achieve more and becoming my best.
What is a talent you’d like most to have?
I would like to be a better skier. We don’t really have skiing in Jordan. It’s very thrilling and keeps you active in the winter. I’ve never learned to enjoy the winter outdoors the same way Canadians do. I’ll have to work on that.
What is the most unusual thing on your iPod?
Heavier music perhaps: Meshuggah, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Faith No More, Soundgarden, but also music from where I’m from and also a lot of club music: trip-hop, techno, house — that’s the dancer in me coming out.
What is a guilty pleasure of yours?
Almond butter and honey (which I discovered in Canada). It’s healthy, but not too much. Another is upgrading to first class on flights. If it’s a long flight overseas, say, for 11 or 12 hours, it’s quite the luxury, but then you feel guilty afterward.
April 6: Brantford Public Library, Brantford, Ont.
May 21: Robert Sasso Auditorium, San Jose, Costa Rica
June 11: Edinburgh International Conference Center, U.K.
To learn about Tariq Harb's upcoming concerts, check out his CBC Music artist page, or visit Tariqharb.com. Check out Harb's complete Studio 211 session here.
Discover Todd Yaniw, Canada's next piano superstar
Discover Keith Hamm, Canada's next viola superstar
Discover Brian Yoon, Canada's next cello superstar
on Feb 23, 2013