Toronto’s Nick Pandya will sweep you off your feet with his voice at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup

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Toronto Desi Diaries is baaack.

It was a long hiatus. This blog’s purpose was always to connect me to my true passion, writing. There was a disconnect. I had gotten lost.

Anyway, the Summer of 2020—much like the year itself— is all about recalibrating, readjusting and gradually merging into the lanes of normalcy (whatever that is).

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught me, it is: Life will keep delivering the same lesson until you learn from it.

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This year’s, BollywoodMonster Mashup (BMM) will take place Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25 via Facebook. Tune in to Facebook.com/BollywoodMashup at 6 p.m. (EST) to go on a scintillating evening of dance and music. 

Headlining the virtual concert on Friday, July 24 is Canada’s most popular transplant to Bollywood – Sunny Leone. Sunny will perform a few of her hits, and afterwards take part in a live chat.

Arjuna Harjai, a critically-acclaimed Bollywood composer/ singer of the Choti Choti Gal (Motichoor Chaknachoor) and O Soniye (Titoo MBA) fame, will also present a selection of his foot-tapping Bollywood melodies.  

On Saturday, July 25, Meet Bros and Khushboo Grewal will take on the entertaining responsibilities. Meet Bros (Harmeet and Manmeet Singh) are the men behind chartbusters such as “Lamborghini” (Jai Mummy Di), “Main Tera Boyfriend” (Raabta) and “Babydoll” (Ragini MMS 2).

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When you watch Nick Pandya’s excellent cover of Mere Sohneya from the movie Kabir, two thoughts will hit you simultaneously. First, his voice. Oh, what a voice.

Second, the cookie-cutter homes set against the backdrop of a man-made body of water will be oddly familiar. Yes, the video was filmed in a subdivision near Mayfield Road and The Gore in Brampton.

After months of being cooped indoors because of the pandemic, Nick decided to venture outside. This music video was a tribute to tasting life’s small pleasures— fresh air, sunshine and music.

Within the Toronto and nearby areas, Nick, 28, is somewhat a homegrown celebrity and a YouTube sensation. His covers of popular Hindi and Gujarati songs are worthy of a listen or two.

An alumnus of Bramalea Secondary School, Nick has performed alongside Shankar Mahadevan, Jonita Gandhi, Chinmayi, Sukhvinder and others.

“Besides my parents, the person who inspires me the most is Shankar Mahadevan (Bollywood singer/composer),” said Nick who did a show in Toronto with Mahadevan. “When a reporter asked Shankar where he saw himself in life, Shankar replied that as a musician and human being, he wanted to be second because that way, he could continue to learn from the person in the first place.”

Mental health and Music

Nick works as a psychotherapist. When he’s not helping alleviate mental health and addiction issues, he’s fully immersed in his musical career and running Darshan Entertainment with his Dad.

“I believe in having a balance between music and my day job,” Nick said. “My job gives me the drive and the motivation to do better in my music and my career. I use music as a way of self-care.”

Nick Pandya, singer/co-founder Darshan Entertainment

Nick’s introduction to music started at 9 when he began taking tabla lessons. He studied the Indian skin instrument for 12 years and is acquainted with the elements of rhythm. This may be why his vocal prowess has that special something, an easy familiarity with the notes.

In 2008, he was the first runner- up in a reality TV contest judged by the well-known Pandit Jasraj. The contest, which unfolded over nine months, gave the audience a chance to know Nick and his vocal range. Soon after, opportunities came knocking.

It’s evident one of Nick’s parents are his biggest influence and their relationship appears to be one filled with mutual love. His parents are his biggest cheerleaders.

During Navratri, Dandiya with Pandya (a second family business), is booked solid. Incidentally, Nick’s cover of a well-known song Moti Veerana by Osman Mir and Amit Trivedi is a viral hit. It has garnered more than 70,000 views on YouTube and is one of the most requested songs during his live performances.

“I think the most important thing with music is even though I would love to do it full-time, I am enjoying myself fully doing it part-time, and that, to me is the most important thing,” he says.

Toronto’s Nick Pandya, singer, co-founder, and producer of Darshan Entertainment and Dandiya with Pandya has performed alongside Shankar Mahadevan, Jonita Gandhi, Chinmayi, Sukhvinder and other Bollywood artists. On Friday, July 23, Pandya will perform at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup happening via Facebook live.

On BollywoodMonster Mashup

Nick says BMM is a professionally-run concert that continues to give him a platform to showcase his craft to one of the biggest audiences in the GTA.

Nick will perform at the BMM Friday, July 24.

 

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.