Kareem Sanjaghi has had enough success in his short career to be able to move to music meccas like Boston or New York or even Nashville. But he prefers Cape Cod.
Having played in front of a thousand people withTony Orlando’s band earlier this fall and, in the past, receiving compliments from Boston Pops Orchestra’s Keith Lockhart and Tony Bennett, the 26-year-old East Dennis resident is content being a working musician at Cape venues where he keeps busy year-round playing with various bands.
Family keeps him here on the Cape, he says, but also his love of the area, of his fellow musicians, and of his job—his day job is at Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod.
“Success comes from within, regardless of where you live. If you work hard enough, good things will happen. I’ve been fortunate,” he said.
He comes by his talent naturally. His grandfather is well-known local jazz pianist Bob Hayes, who has been playing on the Cape since 1950. Kareem began sitting in on gigs with him as a teenager and became a regular with Hayes and Cape jazz legend Lou Colombo.
He has learned a lot from playing with veteran musicians. “They take the music seriously. They don’t take themselves too seriously,” he said.
He still plays most often with the Bob Hayes Band and also with the Bert Jackson Quartet, along with numerous other bands.
Although Kareem may be most known on the Cape for playing jazz with some of the region’s greats, he also plays rock. “I learn from both. Playing jazz makes me a better rock musician and vice versa,” he said.
He describes his playing as “a solid drumming style.”
“I aim more for playing with the group than trying to stand out. That’s led to a lot of my success,” he said. Adding, it’s “learning when to play more and when to play less, not getting in the way of the other musicians.”
Learning by listening and watching jazz musicians like his grandfather and Lou Colombo were perhaps his main education in music, he said.
“You have to give 100 percent all the time. There’s no falling asleep. Any song, any tempo, any style, you go with it,” he said.
On the rock side, he lists his favorite rock influence as the band, Green Day. He points out that Green Day’s drummer lists Ringo Starr as an influence. Kareem cites Ringo as an underrated drummer who had a lot more to do with the success of the Beatles than some give him credit for.
Kareem, a 2007 graduate of Nauset High School, began playing the drums at age 10 and received his first drum set from his parents about two years later. He went on to earn an associates degree at Cape Cod Community College and a degree in economics at Boston College, but throughout those college years, music—and performances on the Cape—continued to be a big part of his life.
Kareem may give lie to the mantra that the Cape offers nothing for young people. “I think there are more people my age than people my age know about. It’s getting out and meeting people and going to networking events and realizing there are a lot more young people than people think,” he said.
Asked to name a favorite place on the Cape, he lists Sesuit Harbor in Dennis as a first choice. His favorite activities include boating in the summer with a friend on Bass River.
“I love driving around Hyannis, especially down by the harbor. I love Osterville. The ocean is beautiful all over the Cape,” he said.
An appreciative audience is perhaps the thing Kareem likes best about performing.
He said he loves playing the Cape’s many outdoor venues in the summer, as well as the Cape’s libraries and nursing homes—essentially, wherever there is an appreciative audience.
Kareem has gigs booked 10 months into 2015, throughout the Cape. The next time to hear him is New Year’s Eve. For the fifth year in a row, he will be playing with the Bob Hayes Band on New Year’s Eve at the Oyster Company in Dennis.
Laura M. Reckford is the founder and owner of Cape Cod Wave, an online magazine covering the culture and character of Cape Cod.