Skip to main content

As duo Majid Jordan, Toronto's Jordan Ullman and Majid Al Maskati have found success over the past decade with their smooth electronic R&B sound.LAITH AL-MAJALI/Handout

Upon the release of their long-awaited new album, Toronto electronic R&B/pop duo Majid Jordan find their career coming full circle as they celebrate – and look back on – one special date.

On Oct. 22, 2011, Jordan Ullman met Majid Al Maskati at the latter’s birthday party when they were both University of Toronto students. Ullman, a Toronto-based producer, and Al Maskati, a singer-songwriter from Bahrain, hit it off when it came to music. They went on to transform a dorm room into a studio and completed two songs from their first session together. Their SoundCloud EP caught the attention of a particularly influential local record label – Drake’s OVO Sound – and they found themselves signing a deal under the handle Majid Jordan.

Last Friday – another Oct. 22 – the pair once again partied on Al Maskati’s birthday. But this time, it doubled as a celebration of the release of their third album, Wildest Dreams. It comes four years after their last record, The Space Between, and explores themes of aspired and realized fantasies – and finding the place where you truly want to be.

Majid Jordan are recognized for a sonic experience that’s both retro and futuristic at the same time. Combining Ullman’s groovy synths with Al Maskati’s honest, introspective lyricism, their tracks are perfect to accompany late-night drives – or make you want to dance. “We want to give people comfort that might not be present in their life,” Ullman says in an interview. “We want to make people feel good.”

The key to their sound is how spontaneous and flexible they are when it comes to production, often transforming their hotel-room surroundings into makeshift studios – just as they did back in university. “We were making music with no plan in mind,” Al Maskati says. “We make music all the time – whether it’s together, whether it’s writing on the guitar and producing instrumentals.”

Looking back on a decade together, the duo says their personal bond has always preceded their professional relationship – they always knew they wanted to work together “regardless of whether that was going to make us massive or unknown,” Al Maskati says. “Beyond music, we’re so tied now – our families, our friends, our communities.”

With the onset of the pandemic, the duo took an extended break, with no releases between 2019 single Superstar and this year’s Billboard-charting track Waves of Blue. The time off, however, proved to be a fruitful period to focus on a new album.

“I think you really get to the core of who you are and what you want to do when you’re isolated – when all the distractions, all the shows and all the travelling comes to a stop,” Ullman says. He and Al Maskati wanted to release the album at a time when they could get back onstage to connect with fans.

With pandemic restrictions loosening, it makes sense then that the album offers an uplifting eighties’ synth-pop soundscape. Throughout the record’s first few tracks, including Dancing on a Dream, Summer Rain and Waves of Blue, Al Maskati’s metaphors paint a starry-eyed picture of love. Their pal Drake turns up on Stars Align, his feature vocal turn better than anything from his own recent Certified Lover Boy. Majid Jordan show that they can still slow things down, though, with the sensual title track and the acoustic ballad Forget About The Party.

Indeed, unlike The Space Between, which was designed to sound seamless as one song transitioned into the next, Wildest Dreams takes listeners on a journey where each track has its own identity, reflecting a stylistically diverse album. Ullman says the approach was intentional – the experience should feel like jumping from one dream to another. “Every song should almost sound like that moment where you just wake up from the dream and it’s a brand-new start, a brand-new idea,” he explains. “We wanted to make each song stand alone so that everybody had their favourite song for their own reason.”

The second half of the album features two standout tracks, Been Through That and Life Worth Living, where the lyrics come down to earth and reflect on life’s hurdles and tough times. “We came up with this desperate, dark plea where it’s someone calling out, asking, ‘What is a life worth? What is the life I want to live? What is the reality of my life currently?’” Al Maskati says about the latter song.

“It made sense to use a tense, angsty, saxophone-induced production – because it’s like you’re driving a car a hundred miles an hour to find the answer,” Ullman adds.

Wildest Dreams wraps up with the smooth, jazzy vibes of Sway and Sweet. Sweet was the result of an impromptu session, with Al Maskati singing over Ullman’s piano playing – a special memory while making the album, they recall.

“I just remember being in the moment,” Ullman says. “Nothing else mattered. It was just the fact that we were enjoying ourselves.”

“It felt like the first day we ever made music together,” Al Maskati adds.

With the album out just as live shows resume, the pair is looking forward to an upcoming mini-tour that will bring them home to Toronto’s storied Massey Hall on Dec. 2 – a venue they’ve always wanted to play, Al Maskati says, pointing out that Ullman was born in the hospital directly across the street.

Having reached a certain level of success, the duo doesn’t shy away from leveraging that influence – they’ve been active in advocating for social justice issues, including signing the Musicians for Palestine statement and encouraging fans to follow their lead in donating to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

“You have to let the people who are suffering know that they’re being heard,” Al Maskati says. “The world is bigger than the bubble you’re living in.”

That’s why they’re keen to help bridge gaps and give back to community, which stems in part from their own experience of connecting as two people from completely different parts of the world.

For Ullman, this means building a women-run studio in Toronto to address the under-representation of female producers in the music business; while Al Maskati, a Bahraini who has spent his formative adult years in Canada, envisions creating a cross-cultural exchange program for artists from both countries.

“One of our wildest dreams is to make hubs around the world [for] like-minded people that we’ve met,” Ullman says, “and to incubate for other people what we’ve been able to do.”

Sign up for The Globe’s arts and lifestyle newsletters for more news, columns and advice in your inbox.