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Meet Kaspien, One of Your Performers for City Sounds Live at Ogilvy Square!

August 11, 2023

Get ready to cap off your summer with an exciting live music performance right in the heart of Ottawa’s Original Downtown! On August 31, Ogilvy Square will be playing host to one of many live concerts that are taking place all around the city as part of City Sounds Live. Spearheaded by the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and the Downtown Rideau BIA, this FREE event is a fantastic opportunity to discover some of the talent that is blossoming throughout our city’s local music scene while experiencing the one-of-a-kind ambiance that Rideau Street can provide. And with JOEY Rideau and Clocktower Brew Pub right next door, you’re free to enjoy a cold craft brew or some high-end cuisine while you take in the sights and sounds! 

Of course, a concert is only as entertaining as the performers on its bill, and Rideau Street will be fortunate enough to have the likes of Kaspien and Jasmine Trails appearing on stage that evening! We had the unique opportunity to sit down with both of them and discuss everything from ocean conservation to spirituality, learning more about their musical journey thus far, what motivates them to create their art and what we can expect when they take the stage at the end of the month. First up: Kaspien! 

Jasmine Trails and Kaspien on Ogilvy Square
Kaspien and Jasmine Trails stand in the center of Ogilvy Square, where they will perform on the 31st.

A Convergence of Influences 

Kaspien, who also goes by Karim Rostom, began his musical journey from an early age. Being born to a guitarist father and a pianist mother, he took to the former instrument and eventually began writing his own material around the age of 12. Years later, as a university student, he began to perform for live audiences and truly hone his craft as both a songwriter and performer. Artists such as Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes would prove to be major early influences in his songwriting career. 

As his songwriting and onstage persona began to take its own distinctive shape, other major influences would also begin to present themselves; namely, theatre and film. Karim has a wealth of experience working with these mediums both in Ottawa and abroad. He has co-written a play with collaborator Seth Thomson entitled “A Gentleman’s Dispute,” which was produced as a virtual play and seen by an audience of over 130 as part of the Ottawa Youth Infringement Festival. It was also featured on CBC Radio’s All in a Day with Alan Neal.

 Karim is intimately aware of the effect that his time working in theatre has had on his career thus far. “Through acting courses and stage management, I feel like I’m aware of the space on the stage I’m able to play with,” he states. “I also try to be aware of the audience in a way that I feel is taught very often in theatre.” 

At the same time, his work producing film scores has also been instrumental in the progression of his songwriting abilities. Karim has scored soundtracks to multiple short films, not the least of which includes Kasia Peruzzi’s “The Maidenswood,” which was selected at the 2021 Toronto Short Film Festival. 

Karim’s background in theatre and film has been a driving force in the shaping of his music career. (Image: Karim Rostom) 

Rolling in the Ocean, Trying to Catch Her Eye 

All of these experiences would eventually come together on his 2019 release “DIVER,” a concept album that he describes as a “nautical fairy tale.” In it, the music and lyrics converge across six songs to deliver a story about the importance of ocean conservation, a topic that has had a long-standing presence in Karim’s life. 

“I was definitely watching a lot of ocean documentaries when I was a kid…I’ve always felt very drawn to the ocean.” 

Across the entirety of the album’s runtime, musical motifs reflect the characters’ experiences and emotions throughout the story, an idea that stems from his work in film. “It was fun to play around with that,” he recalls, “where you have the same musical phrase come back in a few songs, and it sounds familiar, but it’s harmonized differently.” 

On his 2019 EP “DIVER,” Karim tells a consistent story across six songs while touching upon the theme of ocean conservation. (Image: Karim Rostom)

Reckoning with the Post-Pandemic Era 

When he’s not composing and performing, Karim spends his time working as a Program Coordinator for the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, a position he assumed shortly after the pandemic began.  

Unsurprisingly, promoting the music scene in Ottawa during the all-encompassing lockdowns that were happening at the time presented a series of unique challenges. That said, Karim noticed that many artists rose to the occasion and, in some instances, even thrived. 

“From speaking to artists that were livestreaming during the pandemic quite regularly, it seemed like they managed to do quite a bit over Twitch and things like that,” he notes. “If anything, they were even more connected with their audience than at a live show; they could read individual messages from fans and respond to them between songs.”  

“There seemed to be a bit more of an opportunity to be interactive without it being overwhelming.” 

That’s not to say, however, that the ability to perform live wasn’t missed during that period. For Karim, regaining the ability to perform live in venues like Ogilvy Square represents a restoration of the essential social components of music that cannot be divorced from the medium itself. “Music is as social as it is artistic,” Karim asserts, “and I think that’s something that’s a little difficult to translate digitally…there’s this easy social aspect to it that’s really hard to replace.” 

Kaspien on Ogilvy Square
Karim has worked diligently with OMIC to build a music scene in Ottawa that rivals the likes of Montreal and Toronto.

Laying Down a Solid Foundation 

Indeed, Karim has noticed the social aspect of music more than ever in the post-pandemic era. He has seen first-hand how people in the Ottawa music scene have taken it upon themselves to support each other to an extent they hadn’t done prior to the pandemic. Moreover, new and exciting acts continue to walk through OMIC’s doors, looking to participate in the booming scene. 

In the wake of all this change, Karim and his colleagues as well as promoters like CRANIUM, Debaser and First Crush Promotion have worked tirelessly to build the scene into something that can stand alongside the likes of neighbouring cities.  

“Right now,” he states, “we’re still building the infrastructure in order to effectively promote musicians and have a platform that’s big enough for them to be heard while standing alongside places like Montreal and Toronto, but the talent is there – it’s like an untapped market and people are making incredible music.” 

In the future, Karim plans to continue his work in making that vision a reality while also working alongside friends and collaborators to make “pressure-free music” as well as continue to share the music of Kaspien with anyone who will listen. He looks forward to being involved in the bright future that lies ahead for the city’s music scene. 

“With all the music and art coming out of Ottawa right now, it’s really exciting and there’s a lot to pay attention to.” 

If you’re looking to fit a little more music into your summer before September rolls around, this is your last chance to do so! This live event is only a two-minute walk from Rideau Station and is the perfect way to cap off a fun-filled, sun-soaked summer before the autumn season hits. Bring family and friends and enjoy dinner and drinks on one of the patios in the square. Soak in the music alongside the new mural from Dems & Doll while sitting under the starry night sky and experience a taste of the culture that Ottawa’s Original Downtown has to offer! Check out the latest listing on our Events page for more information. 

🎤 Kaspien and Jasmine Trails  

📅 Thursday, August 31, 2023   

📍 Ogilvy Square (1 Nicholas Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7)  

⏰ 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm   

🎫 FREE! 

Worried about where you are going to park? Click here for a handy tool to find all the parking options and rates in the downtown!