Today we’d like to introduce you to Raffi Zaki.
Raffi, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My love of music began at the age of 15. I listened to mostly classic rock and metal. I discovered my passion and need to make music after diving deep into some Pink Floyd albums. Their ability to create soundscapes and stories with music even without the use of words was so inspiring to me, I wanted in. I got a job at a local swap meet and saved enough to buy a guitar. With no one to teach me, I tried teaching myself and ended up mistaking the 1st string for the 6th string and vice versa…learning chords upside down! I’m not a music savant by any means, my path was off to a rough start, but my passion for music was real.
By the time I was 20, I had played in many bands and gone on a couple of tours. One night a terrible accident severed my thumb almost completely off. I had it reattached but the recovery took many months. In my boredom and frustration in not being able to make music during this, I discovered I can make music on a laptop. It didn’t require the intense tactile control a bass, guitar, or playing the drum takes. I found a new love, a new avenue, and I went with it. Soon after, I got booked as a DJ playing gigs with almost no experience. As a couple of years went by started to become more professional and took gigs for weddings, clubs, private parties, you name it. It was interesting to see how I can control a dance floor but I wanted to take it further. From there, I started programming old video game controllers to make music, like DDR pads, and one time I got fruit to trigger samples(lol). I was always trying to expand performance with technology.
About two years ago, I found a video online of a live electronic improviser named Marc Rebillet. He is like nothing I have ever seen before, he was creating music in real-time while interacting with the crowd or using elements of his environment in his music. This video, and his other performances, galvanized me to change my setup and perspective on my musical approach. So I have transformed from live performance DJ to an improvisational electronic act.
Furthermore watching Marc Rebillet’s videos go from a few thousand views to millions in a few months showed me the power of video performances and the audience it can reach. It awakened me to the idea to create a live stream studio. A space made for me, and other live acts, to catch audio/video in HQ to share with the world in the now. So when the “gigapocolyspe” happened I was oddly prepared for how the performance world would shift it aspect, live stream events. I started taking gigs in which I was helping other artists and events set up their equipment to allow the world to watch them. Currently, I am always trying to improve my improvisational set up as well as my live stream studio equipment/space.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think any performing artist has had a smooth road, it probably comes with the territory. I definitely have some regrets in my life but I try to focus on the now and future to help keep my passion fueled. When I do think of unfortunate events in my years prior, I also attempt to remember that even trauma inducing scenarios such as my thumb being sliced off brought me to a whole new world of music I may have not otherwise discovered and love.
Jack Pharaoh – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Jack Pharaoh began as “Rahfee Zahkee”, a play on the spelling of my name Raffi Zaki. Unfortunately, it was too difficult to spell and caused much flyer confusion. A few years later, a good friend of mine, Cina from Vegan Boyz, randomly blurted out “Hey you’re Egyptian and you look like Jack Sparrow, you should be Jack Pharaoh!” And so it was.
While Rahfee Zahkee was mostly a DJ, my newer moniker Jack Pharaoh is mostly an electronic improvisational performance. I use various digital hardware, software, classic instruments, as well as other musicians into my mix to create an experience that goes with the now, My surroundings and my audience can be my muse to help the sound and direction of the music.
Also, during this time of pandemic and uncertainty, I have been doing live stream events, both performing and or doing helping with the tech side of it. So one may request a private live stream event or to hire me to help configure their equipment for streaming and or help with technical issues of an event.
I am proud that I get to offer an experience not many have had the pleasure of experiencing. I don’t think everyone will like my music, but everyone has something to gain to see how electronic music is not just pressing play but an experience like all instruments.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment would probably be the time I got to perform on center stage at NAMM 2016. I worked and attended NAMM for a few years prior, so to be offered the experience to play one of the most prestigious industry, only music events in the world was a dream come true. It made me feel like I was heading in the right direction and further solidified this different path of music I chose to take. Another notable moment was opening up for RZA from The Wu-Tang Clan. To perform in front of thousands of people before one of hip hop inspirations was a feeling I wish I could explain.
- Live stream tech $25 an hour
- Live performance $150 an hour (2 hours max)
- Private or requested live stream performance $75 an hour (2 hours max)
- Phone: 5622743852
- Email: JackPharaohMusic@gmail.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/jackpharaohmusic/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/raffi.zaki