(April 22, 2022) Bespectacled, delicate riffs in a very Jack Jones-esque rendition, Canada-based musician Rehan Dalal croons Walk With Me, that was among the top 10 India radio hits (2013). Yet, his tryst with music started when he was a child, and he hated it. While Rehan loved playing the keyboard, and listening to jazz and rock, he felt restricted by music classes and stopped attending. Today, the Toronto-based musician Rehan is on an exciting journey to make music that he finds solace in. His songs, such as That Old Fashioned Feeling, Caramel on Porcelain and Walk With Me, have been received very well by listeners on various audio platforms (iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, and Ok Listen). “Ironically, today I am a big proponent of learning music,” laughs the 33-year-old musician, in an interview with Global Indian.
The musician, who moved from Mumbai to Canada in 2005 to pursue a degree in computer science, eventually picked up a guitar and began writing songs. “I was always into music, but I started making music only after coming to Canada. During university, I would spend time alone in my dorm room, and that’s when I started writing songs, as a hobby. However, my teachers and friends were quite encouraging, so I started writing more. I even started performing at the local open mics, and that helped my music,” adds the musician who has done several national and international stage performances, including gigs at NH7 Weekender (Bengaluru, Delhi and Pune).
A born musician
Born in Mumbai, the young Rehan discovered a love for the sound of a keyboard. “My father was a great admirer of jazz, hip-hop and R&B – also referred to as Black American music. I grew up listening to that. My grandfather, I remember, listened to a lot of Hindustani classical music. But back then I didn’t appreciate it. That is something I regret,” shares the musician. While he didn’t like the idea of sitting in a class for an hour and learning the nuances of music, he still loved playing the keyboard, “Which at that point of time I didn’t know how to play well,” Rehan adds. Eventually, Rehan’s aunt gifted him a guitar, which he self-taught.
Interestingly, Rehan loved computer coding as much as he loved music, and that pushed him to move to Waterloo, where he studied a bachelor’s in computer science. “When I first came here, it was to study economics. I found the subject boring, so I shifted to computer science, as I had been coding since I was nine, thus I already knew most of what was being taught in college. So, I quit in my second year,” the musician shares. It was around the same time that he had started writing and performing at small gigs in Waterloo. “I received a lot of appreciation from my audience, and decided to move to Toronto in 2007, as most artists in Canada lived there,” he adds.
Finding his tune
Though his passion for music had brought him to Toronto, it didn’t take much time for Rehan to realise that the road ahead was full of challenges. Several amazing ideas for a song brimmed but he found it difficult to communicate his thoughts to other artists. “I had many ideas, but I lacked skills. I knew how the song would sound, and which note would go where, but it was in my head. I didn’t know how to translate these sounds into words and present it to other musicians to help develop a song,” shares the musician, adding, “This was the point where I understood how formal education in music could have helped me.” Yet, Rehan soon learned the required skills, and started working with various big names.
One of his biggest breakthroughs was when his song Walk With Me, from the 2013 album Got To Feel It, scored a top-10 radio hit in India. “I feel truly blessed that I was able to work with those musicians, whom I was a fan of. Got To Feel It was my first debut record, which was produced by Justin Abedin, who goes by the stage name Jacksoul, and is a huge name in the Canadian music scene,” says the artist who has shared the stage with the likes of Mark Ronson, Flying Lotus and Divine Brown. “One of my most memorable performances was when I opened for David Ryan Harris. He was so generous. I met a number of musicians during that time, whom I grew up listening to. It was surreal,” Rehan adds, who was spotlighted as a featured artist at the 28th Toronto International Jazz Festival.
Facing the music
Art seldom pays bills. Rehan, too, has a tech job that helps. However, unlike others, this musician loves what he does. “I am a software engineer at a firm. I didn’t complete my degree, but I had the knowledge so they hired me. I have many hobbies which I feel can be a viable source of income – I love to design logos and websites. I am also into furniture designing,” shares the artist, who wishes to retire at 45.
Rehan, whose shares that his latest album, Fruit of a Poison Tree, is his most ambitious effort yet, adds that his music draws from his love of neo-soul and jazz. “My music is inspired by a lot of things, including the emotions I feel and what is happening around me. I am still learning, as I believe that is one process that should never stop,” shares the artist, who is looking to collaborate with an Indian artist in his next project.