Combining R&B, pop, and hip-hop, Karl Wolf has become one of Canada's leading music stars and earned a sizable international following after his cover of Toto
's "Africa" became a major hit.
Wolf was born Karl Abou Samah in Beirut, Lebanon in 1979, and he relocated to Dubai with his family after war broke out. As a teenager, he picked up the nickname "Wolf" from a friend who had seen the movie Teen Wolf: like the picture's title character, Karl was smaller than most of the other guys on the basketball court, but his speed and tenacity made him an impressive competitor. Wolf and his family moved to Montreal when he was 16; he came from a musical family (his mother taught piano and his father played drums, guitar, and oud) and he began taking a serious interest in music, learning to play guitar and piano, sing, and write songs. He got his first big break in 2001, when two songs he helped write appeared on an album by Quebecoise pop singer Gabrielle Destroismaisons. Wolf's success as a songwriter brought him to the attention of Antoine Sicotte of the Montreal-based R&B group Sky
; when their lead vocalist Anastasia parted ways with the band, Wolf was invited to join, and he appeared on their album Picture Perfect. In 2005, Sky
broke up, and Wolf moved on to a solo career; he released his first album on his own, Face Behind the Face, in early 2006. The album spawned several hit singles in Canada (including "Butterflies," "Referee," and "Desensitize"), and his second solo effort, Bite the Bullet, was released in late 2007. The album was a success at home, but it wasn't until 2009 that Wolf's cover of "Africa" (featuring hip-hop artist Culture) became a belated hit in Canada, rising to number two on the pop charts, and then achieved major success in Japan and the Middle East. In November 2009, Wolf's third album was released, and Nightlife spawned another international hit in "Yalla Habibi," which charted in both Canada and Japan. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi