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
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?
“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
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.