In Conversation with Karter Zaher: Deen Squad and his Solo Career

Photo: Instagram (@karterzaher)

Karter Zaher is a Lebanese Canadian singer, rapper and songwriter. Born in Ottawa, Ontario where he met Jae Deen and started “Deen Squad” in 2015. The band blew up by doing “halal covers” of billboard hot songs such as Havana by Camilla Cabello, God’s Plan by Drake and more. They were featured in CNN Arabia, BBC, and other news outlets. They also played in the opening act of Justin Bieber’s purpose tour in Dubai. The band became an inspiration to many muslim youth worldwide, receiving over 200 million views, by taking an interesting spin on music and religion.

However, in 2019, Deen Squad broke up, and the bitter fallout saw Deen Squad cease to exist and close its social media accounts (which had amassed over two million followers all together). This led Zaher to start his solo music career and start his own record label “Holy Sound”. Karter became an icon for his “halal covers” and creating representation in the hip hop scene for Muslim and Arab representation. So what is Karter up to these days? We sat down with him over a cup of coffee on IG Live and… and we talked!

1. Karter Zaher! Is your name really Karter? 

My real name is Kodor Zaher. Growing up and specifically in high school, everyone just kept calling me Karter so the name just stuck. Also, everyone I was around [in Canada] kept mispronouncing Kodor. Like they’d say  “ko-door”, “Koood-or”, or “koodoore”, so I decided to just go with Karter.

2. How did you start making music? 

I started social media and then part of Deen Squad. I wanted to make a difference through my music.  I remember listening to rappers like Tupac and Eminem and asked myself, “Why not me?”. I knew I wanted to do this and just started busting rhymes. 

3. You were part of the famous Deen Squad. How is being a solo artist different than a group?

I would say there are advantages and disadvantages for both. We did some great things in Deen Squad where we worked as a team, had multiple creative minds working together to produce magic which got us far. However, at this point, I feel like it’s the right time to start my journey as a solo artist and my music is now an expression of my own self at the end of the day. 

4.  You release a new song – That’s Haram. Tell us more about the song.

This is probably my favourite song to date. It’s about a guy who is similar to me and has a lot of people telling him what to do and not to do. You got the Haram Police trying to stop him, but all he wants is just to be and do him.  I feel like people can relate to it and that’s why I went for this song. I really hope it resonates with people just like it does with me.

5. I see you’re on TikTok now and producing some viral hits. How did you get there  

Yes, Tiktok is a brilliant App. We could have even had the interview there if it was possible. The amount of content can create on this app is amazing, and it’s just a different world there allowing for more creativity when it comes to creating content in comparison to social media platforms like Instagram. I’m definitely loving it, and you’ll find me creating more content there when I’m not off social media haha!

5. Any favorite Tiktokers? 

There’s a lot of great Tiktokers out there. One of my favorites however is ArabicMclovin. That guy is hilarious and I relate a lot to his content!

6. What do you say to people who say you’re using Islam as a way to commercialize your music? 

Being Arab and Muslim is part of my identity and music is part of how I express myself. There are always going to be ‘haters’ and people will find flaws or a way to bring you down, especially when you’re experiencing success. I know my intentions are good and it’s my own relationship with God that really matters. I’m out here trying to create more representation in Hip Hop for my community in my own unique way, and I hope people would just focus on this positive aspect rather than creating negative narratives in their heads. 

What a fun conversation we had with Karter Zaher, catch you soon!

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