Ayaz Virani has the voice and the heart to become Canada’s top crooner

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So, when the presser about North York’s Ayaz Virani found me, I read it with more than cursory interest.

It’s not everyday a South Asian singer wins a coveted prize for his original work, a mellow pop/soul number with undertones of R&B.

Before, I ramble on, let me introduce the man whose song–Take it From me– strikes more than a chord with listeners. It has a “It” factor.

I am about to make this entire blog irrelevant by suggesting people hit play on the video now.

Recently, a panel of musicians and music industry experts chose Ayaz as the 2016 recipient of the Emerging Artist Music Mentorship Program, courtesy, a Canada’s Walk of Fame initiative.

Ayaz will receive $25,000 worth private studio recording time, introduction to an already established artist, face time with executives and get couple of opportunities to perform.

Here’s where his win gets more impressive. The panel received more than 350 hopefuls from coast-to-coast.

Music, not soccer makes my heart, beat

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North York resident Ayaz Virani is scaling the ladder of success after he won the 2016 Emerging Artists Music Mentorship program from Canada’s Walk of Fame. Photo courtesy Canada’s Walk of Fame

Ayaz grew up listening to a medley of musical styles as a result of Toronto’s multicultural vibe: Bollywood, ‘70s soul music, hip-hop and more

“The passion for music was always there, but I ignored it,” he said. “I am happy, I am now taking charge of my life.”

Yes, this story, like others narratives featured in this blog is about to meander down a predictable path: a young man (Ayaz), brimming with potential, abandons his artistic interests to pursue a profession worthy of his immigrant ancestors.

Childhood was all about playing soccer, attending math programs (outside of school) and performing at myriad cultural shows South Asian parents invariably drag their kids to.

Making his grandpa proud

After high school, he put his music away in cold storage and switched tracks with a B.Sc. in human kinetics from University of Ottawa. This path, he hoped would lead to him becoming a physician. Three tries later, Ayaz managed to pass the stringent MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), but was told, he was eligible to pursue medicine in Ireland, not Toronto.

That sobering news woke him from his reverie and self-imposed musical exile.

“I finally came face-to-face with my reality,” Ayaz told Toronto Desi Diaries on his lack-lustre interest in medicine. “Music is all I wanted.”

His parents surprisingly were supportive.

“South Asian parents want us to take these classic routes because of all that they sacrificed to bring us to this country and the opportunities they let go,” he said. “To them, that (engineering, medicine, accountancy) degree is about stability. My grandfather was an accountant back home (Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania), who brought his family to Canada in 1972 and worked as a janitor here for pretty much the rest of his career…”

The perfect storm of emotions

Take it From me, is a pure sublime melody wrapped in insightful words. Ayaz’s voice oozes pure Maple syrup. The guitar accentuates the singer’s velvety cadence and is just right, not overwhelming, nor too timid. In this song, Ayaz serenades the listener. He observes, he muses and questions love.

It’s always a broken heart that sings, right?

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North York resident Ayaz Virani. Photo courtesy Canada’s Walk of Fame

“This song in particular poured out of me,” he admits. “Sometimes you feel something so intensely that there’s nothing else you can do, but release it.”

The girl that broke the floodgates of the artist’s creative energy happens to be Ayaz’s current girlfriend, who at that time, decided to get back with her “ex.”

“I got off the phone, quite heartbroken and couldn’t sleep,” he recalled. “I got out of the bed at 2 a.m., pulled my guitar out and by 5 a.m., I had a full song…”

The rest, is still unfolding.

Follow Ayaz on Instagram

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You can catch Ayaz as he opens for Juno-nominated Matt Dusk with jazz/blues artist Florence K, Sept. 21 at Mod Club, 722 College St. Tickets are $30/person.

Then, on Saturday, Sept. 24, he along with other finalists from Canada’s Walk of Fame’s emerging artist music mentorship, will perform noon to 2 p.m. at Yonge-Dundas Square.

 

September ’16 events elevate Toronto as a Mecca for artists

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Janak Khendry Dance Company will be hosting a dance/drama Ganga at 3 p.m. at the Sir Fredrick Banting Secondary School, 125 Sherwood Forest Square, London, Ont. on Sunday, Sept. 25. Photo courtesy of the Janak Khendry Dance Company

Thursday, Sept. 1

Event: Salim-Sulaiman Concert
Details: The Kidney Foundation of Canada wants GTA residents to experience a musical evening with Bollywood composing duo- Salim and Sulaiman. Event is happening at Mississauga Living Arts Centre. 4141 Living Arts Dr. in Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: For tickets visit, Here

Saturday, Sept. 3

(Please note, this event has been cancelled)

Event: Kalangan Series
Details: Samprada Dance Academy will welcome Aditya Prakash Ensemble for its signature, Kalangan Series at the Samprada Theatre, 4-3250 Rideway Dr. at 7:30 p.m. The concert will blend traditional Indian vocals/ragas with western musical instruments. Tickets cost $20 (adults) $15(students). Check out the accompanying video to get a sample. The sounds are magnificent.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Sept. 10

Event: Rung De’ One
Details: Since its launch few years ago, the Holi-inspired event has been adding colour to the social scene in the GTA. This year, the action shifts to Scholars’ Green (outside Sheridan College Campus), 275 Prince of Wales Dr. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: Here

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Rung De ONE, an event inspired by the Indian festival of Holi made its debut in Toronto. Organizers invited not just South Asians, but everyone to sample the culture of India. Supplied photo

Saturday, Sept. 17

Event: Swayamvar
Details: Dubbed as one of the largest singles events in the GTA, the evening, kicking off at 3 p.m. at Tich Restaurant, 2314 Lake Shore Blvd. W. Toronto combines an exhibition portion as well as some components of speed dating. So, if you’re sleepless in Toronto, head there. Tickets are $35/person.
Contact: For more, visit Here

Saturday, Sept. 24

Event: Bhangra/Reggae concert
Details: Small World Music Festival and Dhol Foundation are bringing a wonderful concert at  noon featuring sounds of Bhangra, infused with reggae as part of in/future – an 11-day festival of arts and music at Ontario Place, 955 Lakeshore Blvd. W.
Contact: Here

Sunday, Sept. 25

Event: Ganga (dance/drama)
Details: Janak Khendry Dance Company is hosting a dance-drama Ganga at 3 p.m. at the Sir Fredrick Banting Secondary School, 125 Sherwood Forest Square, London, Ont.
Contact: Here

Ganga

Janak Khendry Dance Company will be hosting a dance/drama Ganga at 3 p.m. at the Sir Fredrick Banting Secondary School, 125 Sherwood Forest Square, London, Ont.on Sunday, Sept. 25. Photo courtesy Janak Khendry Dance Company

 

 

Here’s a list of desi events happening in Toronto Aug ’16

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The Mosaic South Asian Heritage festival will take place at Celebration Square in Mississauga from 4 to 11 p.m. Supplied photo.

Thursday, Aug. 4
Event: MISAFF 16
Details: The Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF) kicks off next week in Mississauga with a line-up of films. The festival will launch Aligarh, a story about a homosexual professor directed by Hansal Mehta. The four-day festival will wrap up on Aug. 7. All films will be screened at the Cineplex Cinemas Mississauga, 309 Rathburn Rd. W.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Aug. 6
Event: Star Festival
Details: The 2016 Star Festival for Tamilians is taking place at the Markham Fair Grounds, 10801 McCowan Rd., Unionville at 10 a.m. Canadian Tamil Radio organizes the event.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Aug. 613631568_1034318399936725_1468422956695359984_n

Enjoy Krishna, a Kathak dance/drama at Flato-Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd. Markham at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $30/person. Supplied photo.


Event: Krishna
Details: Hemant and Vaishali Panwar both of whom are choreographers/composers are inviting the community to enjoy Krishna, a dance/drama, told through a Kathak performance. The show will take place at Flato-Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd. Markham at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $30/person.
Contact: Here

Sunday, Aug. 7
Event: Panorama India
Details: Celebrate India’s Independence Day with a parade and festival at Yonge-Dundas Square, 1 Dundas St. W. from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, Aug. 12 to 13
Event: Mosaic Festival
Details: The Mosaic South Asian Heritage festival will take place at Celebration Square in Mississauga from 4 to 11 p.m. There will be entertainment, food, music and more. The festival continues on Saturday, Aug. 13 from noon onward.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Aug. 13
Event: Cultural Festival
Details: Celebrate India’s Independence Day with a fundraiser for Fort McMurray Relief. The event is happening at Meadowvale Theatre, 6315 Montevideo Rd. In Mississauga at 4 p.m.
Contact: Here

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Raj Girn, founder, Anokhi Media

Thursday, Aug. 25
Event: Anniversary
Details: Anokhi Media will be celebrating its 13th anniversary in pomp with an awards/fashion/entertainment event at 11 Polson St. Toronto from 6 p.m. onward. Celebrities in attendance will include: Arjun (singer/songwriter), Gingger Shankar (composer/musician), Jus Reign (YouTube celebrity, comic). A limited number of tickets are available as this is an “by invite” event only. There will also be a release of limited edition coffee-table book on prominent South Asians.
Contact: Here

Saturday, Aug. 27
Event: Mohammad Rafi Nite
Details: Head to Don Bosco Catholic School, 2 Andrews Blvd. Etobicoke at 6:30 p.m. for a musical tribute to Mohammad Rafi. The evening is courtesy Mehboob Shaikh Musical Night. Tickets cost $15 to $25/person.
Contact: Here

 

 

The maverick behind the Bollywood Monster Mashup reveals the secret sauce

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Vikas Kohli (centre) with the Bollywood Monster Orchestra. Photo by Jamie Espinoza

Have you noticed how animated some folks become when describing the antics of their child or a pet?

Picture that enthusiasm and multiply it with an outrageously high number to understand how invested Vikas Kohli is with the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM), an annual three-day festival in Mississauga, that he started six years ago.

(Wow, did I just use a Math metaphor?).  He also owns and runs FatLabs, a recording studio in Mississauga.

“I couldn’t have predicted how popular this festival has gotten in six years,” Vikas told TDD recently. “We continually have first-time performers in Canada, in fact, we’re at a stage where we’ve multiple headliners talking to us about wanting to be at BMM. People in Bollywood actually know about the festival now. How cool is that?”

 Sound castles in the air:

For some months now, Vikas, the artistic director of BMM and an award-winning composer, has been furiously working on arranging the music scores for the orchestra portion of BMM Finale concert.

The orchestra will deliver fusion sounds that combine old Bollywood songs with western influences.

“People often ask me, where can they find the band that played at BMM and I tell them, it doesn’t exist,” Vikas said adding, each and every musician that’s part of orchestra was handpicked and invited to perform at the concert.

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The string section of the Bollywood Monster Orchestra will play several Bollywood hits fused with other influences. Photo by Chris Scaini

On Saturday, July 23, the Bollywood Monster Orchestra and Mississauga Pops wind orchestra will deliver a number of retro Hindi songs with powerful string section and blend it with original scores created by Vikas’ musical sensibilities.

Vikas’ influences range from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz to hip-hop, metal and of course Bollywood. So, the sounds you hear will be unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Imagine arranging dozens of scores for a single event and then as the evening ends, the notes too disappear, never to be heard again.

“We create signature acts every year and no other festival does this,” Vikas said. “It takes six months of work and rehearsals to do this. I not only pick the songs, but also decide what kind of instruments to have on the stage. Then, I sit down and make musical charts for all the musicians.”

Once the band is assembled, they run rehearsals. That’s a lot of work for a free event.

The BMM Orchestra (Symphony Nights) on the main stage will include a traditional, classical European-string section delivering rich and beautiful sounds built on some evergreen Bollywood hits. We’re talking a 55-piece wind orchestra and 13-piece string one.

The three elements of BMM festivals:

  1. Artist debut in Canada: So far, all the headliners of the BMM for the past six years have admitted to Vikas afterwards about how bowled over they were by the euphoria and the vibe of the crowd. For these artists making their Toronto debut, that’s a big deal.
  2. Cross-cultural offerings: The BMM has done an exceptional job of fusing South Asian culture with mainstream, whether it’s tap dancing, orchestra or performances by dance ensembles. This year, Culture Rock, a Toronto group will wow the crowd with Bharatnatyam, waacking, hip-hop and more.
  3. Comedy Show: For the past couple of years, humour has been a staple of BMM. This year’s event in Brampton was just what the doctor ordered, a barrel of laughs.

For more information visit here.

 

Aishwarya Nigam to headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup Concert

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Monster Finale

What: Bollywood Monster Mashup Finale
When/Where: Saturday, July 23 from 2 p.m. onward at Celebration Square, Mississauga. Finale events begin at 6:30 p.m.
Who: Aishwarya Nigam (headliner), Mississauga Orchestra, Culture Shock and more
What else: KidsZone, food vendors, Laser Show

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Here’s a prophecy:

I can predict with eerie precision when the masses taking in the Bollywood Monster Mashup’s (BMM) Finale concert will likely go berserk.

It will be a Nano second after the opening bars to Munni Badnam Hui (Dabangg) hits the ether.

I am not a Bollywood movie buff. In fact, my quota to watch a Hindi film is one every few years, but I am an avowed Hindi music fan. The streaming app on my phone is the only thing that keeps me sane during my brutal commute each day.

So, I know Aishwarya will bring the crowd to its feet more than few times. What’s interesting is his other chartbusters: His rendition of Lut Gaye Tere Mohalle (Beshraam) that is incidentally on my playlist will be another crowd favourite.

Let’s get to Aishwarya’s bio

He won the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in 2006, in addition to participating and winning other reality music crowns: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Ek Se Badkar Ek, IPL Rockstar and more.

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Aishwarya Nigam

Aishwarya has performed at more than 500 shows in India and abroad. The BMM will be his first in Canada. He has a debut album Ek Main Aur Ek Tu.

Highlights of the BMM finale:

  • KidZone: This activity-filled portion of BMM includes mini-car racing, kite/mask making workshops and more and will start at 2 p.m. onwards
  • Mississauga Monster Orchestra: Starting at 6:30 p.m., a string/wind orchestra, under the artistic direction of Vikas Kohli will perform a variety of retro songs with a new and fresh twist
  • Culture Shock: will showcase a fusion piece with Bhartnatyam, Bollywood, waacking (underground dance style) and hip-hop
  • What’s on? Tap! : This Mississauga group, a festival favourite, will tap dance to Bollywood numbers
  • A stunning Laser Show, food vendors and more

The festival is absolutely free. For information about parking, getting there etc. visit here.

Sanchari Bose and Bishakh Jyoti of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa to perform at BMM

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BMM

What: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) Concert
When/Where: Friday, July 22 at Celebration Square in Mississauga at 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Who: Bishakh Jyoti and Sanchari Bose will headline the concert. Dance troupe Afsana, the Destiny dancers and Bollywood hits by Mohua and Dhiraj

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Just a quick note to let y’all know, Toronto Desi Diaries is proud to be a media partner for MonstrARTity’s 2016 Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) events.

As a blogger/journalist, I am leery of endorsing brands, but I had no conflict when I said “yes” to BMM folks. Variety of reasons dictated this : (a) they’re one of the biggest South Asian festivals in Canada (b) I love how they’re engaging not just the desis, but the mainstream population as well. Their line-up includes many fusion elements that blend the best of east and west. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) is a three-day festival.

The first component, BMM does Brampton, is happening, Saturday, July 16 at 9 p.m. at Spot 1 Grill on Rutherford Rd. in Brampton. Got your tickets yet?

This blog is about the concert on July 22.

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So, who’s Bishakh?

I know many folks watch the Indian Music Reality TV show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and if you’re one of them, you probably know pretty much everything I have to say about him.

Anyway here’s the Coles note on the rising stars of Bollywood’s playback singing world:
Support and encouragement from his family led Bishakh to audition for Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which he won in 2007 and took second place in 2011.

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Bishakh Jyoti will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) concert, July 22 at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. Show runs from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

He was nominated for Best Music Director at the New York Film Festival and Florence Festival for Mrs. Scooter. He was also nominated for a Mirchi Music award for Best Music Director for his compositions in Babloo Happy Hai.

Bishakh loves travelling and an important advice he’s gotten during his travels is, “to sing from heart.” Which is precisely what he will do, Friday, July 22.

Another alumni:

Sanchari, much like Bishakh, is a fellow alumnus of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. She took the crown in 2002-2003 and went on to also win the “Amul Star Voice of India” contest in 2007.

“It really makes me happy when I see the smiles in people’s faces when they listen to my music or watching me perform,” Sanchari penned in an online site. “For me when one can create a complete silence among the audience with a combination of smile and tears, that means you have hit the target.”

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Sanchari Bose will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) concert, July 22, at Celebration Square in Mississauga.

Sanchari has won dozens of awards for her dulcet voice in her home state – Madhya Pradesh (she’s from Jabalpur) and performed more than 1,000 shows .

She has lent her voice as a playback singer for movies like The World Before Her, by Anurag Kashyap, Kabab Mein Haddi with Daler Mahendi and released a ghazal album ASHQ with Jaswinder Singh.

The concert is free. For more information visit  here.

These brown comics from Toronto have an agenda

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What: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) does Brampton, a comedy/music evening

Where/when: Saturday, July 16, Spot 1 Grill at 289 Rutherford Rd. S. Brampton at 9 p.m.

Who: Ben Mathai, Amish Patel, Ernie Vicente, Azfar Ali, Crystal Ferrier and Nitish Sakhuja. Music by: Movin’ Cool, Selena Dhillon and Daysdeaf

 

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Laughter has a colour

“My child’s a stand-up comic and we are so proud of him/her,” bragged no South Asian parent ever to another or a relative back home.

When this motely group of South Asian comedians grab the mic at MonstrARTity’s comedy and music night in Brampton, you can bet your last loonie, their side-splitting accounts will be embellished with cultural references, parental snafus, arranged marriages and ethnic jokes.

Ben Mathai, a teacher and well-known stand-up comic and actor/writer/comic Amish Patel will lob laughter bombs made from cultural quandaries and quirks. Their mimicry of relatives or a friend’s mother/uncle will most likely take over narrative at some point and send you toppling over the edge of the seat.

BMM Comedy

Ben Mathai, a well-known comic and TV star, will headline a comedy and hip-hop night in Brampton, Saturday, July 16 at Spot 1 Grill, 289 Rutherford Rd. S. The event is by MonstrARTity Creative Community (MCC), a Mississauga-based arts organization.

Ernie Vicente, Azfar Ali, Crystal Ferrier and Nitish Sakhuja will boost the evening’s comedy repertoire.

A word of caution: somewhere between the mirth and madness, there’s a pretty strong chance a performer, may go into labour. Crystal, who has the distinction of being the first Indian woman to headline the prestigious Kenny Robinson’s Nubian Disciples Of Pryor Comedy Show in Toronto, is heavily pregnant, I am told.

Buckle up and enjoy a chuckle-filled evening.

Cost of tickets is $10/person in advance and can be purchased online or $15/person at the door.

 Kem che? Maze ma, Patel Bhai?

Notice how brown comics/musicians/artists have impressive educational credentials?

If a white kid wanted to go to clown college, his parents likely wouldn’t bat and an eyelid. They would gift him a clown kit for Christmas. A desi kid’s life is just the opposite. It’s a rollercoaster ride fluctuating between emotional blackmail, followed by periods of stony silences by parents.

Brown kids suffer through years of medicine/engineering/MBA lessons, stifling their creative voices, just so their parents can get bragging rights with Mrs. Sharma.

Take Amish for instance. He’s an aerospace engineer, but he has moonlighted as an Uber driver and dabbled in other odd jobs just so he could pursue his comedic endeavour, much to the horror of his Gujju parents.

BMM Comedy

Amish Patel, well-known comic, will host a comedy and hip-hop night in Brampton, Saturday, July 16 at Spot 1 Grill, 289 Rutherford Rd. S. The event is by MonstrARTity Creative Community (MCC), a Mississauga-based arts organization.

“The thing with brown people is: we’re oppressed by our parents,” Amish says. “When I was in my 20s, I wouldn’t even answer the phone when if it was my mom on the line, especially if I was on a date or something because my Mom would insist on knowing everything…”

As the youngest of three and the only boy, his parents pinned all their hopes and dreams on their heir. They hoped, he would take over the family’s catering business and follow the herd with: a stable job, marriage and kids, preferably in that order.

“I have not fulfilled any of their expectations,” Brampton-raised Amish announces nonchalantly.”

Amish’s stand-up routines on arranged marriages, big fat desi weddings, parental pressures are a huge hit because his insights are spot on.

“Being a brown comic helps me,” he said. “My training wheels are finally off. Unlike white comedians who have to dig deeper into their lives to come up with stories of oppression, we (brown comics) have so much to tell.”

Amish, who’s in the mid 30s says he has developed a thick skin. And as he thumbs his nose at expectations and approval, this engineer/comic/entrepreneur has been leaving a trail of laughter in his wake.

That, hopefully, will be his legacy. Check out Amish’s sketches here.

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Movin’ Cool, a local hip-hop group, consisting of emcees B Magic and Noyz, and producer/DJ Dusty, will amp up the music on July 16. Other artists that will elevate the event’s status include Selena Dhillon, a soul, jazz and hip hop musician and Daysdeaf, a music artist whose organic and electronic compositions are making people stop and listen. For tickets and information visit here.