Lookeast meets up with DJ Ash, Akash Gulati, and Dara Loy at St Regis Bangkok to discover how a successful musical partnership resulted in the birth of the song ‘Love Today”
Love today written by DJ Ash and Akash Gulati is the debut single of Dara Loy, the half-Thai, half-British singer who is currently performing live Friday to Sunday at The Diplomat Bar, The Conrad Bangkok. Laurence Civil recently joined the three of them for Afternoon Tea at St Regis Bangkok to discover how the song and their successful interactive partnership was born.
Dara Loy was born in Saudi Arabia where her Dad was working as an aircraft engineer. She still has fond memories of her early childhood: swaying palm trees, shwarma, growing up in a multi-cultural environment, attending a great American school, learning very basic Arabic, and understanding the Islamic culture of where she was living at that moment in time. The Loy household echoed to a diverse collection of music: Dad belting out Pink Floyd and The Beatles while Mum was more Disney and Michael Jackson.
“It’s my Mum I have to thank for forcing me at the age of four to learn the piano,” she says. “It taught me the importance of key change and pitch, which proved invaluable to me.”
From a forced introduction, Dara developed a passionate relationship with the piano, studying it to the Royal School of Music’s grade 8. That commitment is now paying off. Each time she is given a new piece of music she sits at the piano to get a feel for the composition and her personal interpretation.
Dara had her first culture shock at aged 11 when the family moved from Saudi Arabia to her Dad’s native Blackpool in the UK. Having been an American International School student, she was now school girl at a British state school. In theory, everyone spoke English but in fact divided by two very different accents: Dara with her strong American accent and all the other kids with their strong northern British accent. Neither could immediately understand what the other was saying. It was an uncomfortable first week. When one said something, the other would think: “What did you say?”
“It didn’t help my street cred that I was studious, geeky, and wore glasses,” says Dara. She had since had laser eye surgery and dont need them.
The first year Dara entered the school’s talent show, she chose a Christina Aquilar number. The moment she picked up the mic, the cable dropped to the floor. That didn’t fluster her. Performer-mode kicked in and she belted it out unaided. That year she came second. The following year she not only won the school’s talent show but also ITV’s “Copycat Kids”
“I chose to sing Alicia Key’s ‘Fallin’,” says Dara. “The song was freshly released and Keys was the American performer who impressed me the most and who I aspired to be. Winning “Copycat Kids” showed me the potential I could have as a performer. I entered the competition for the music. Winning it wasn’t a motivation for increasing my street cred at school, but it did give this geek a new found respect.”
Her mum was well-anchored. She gave her support for Dara’s musical interest but it was conditional that she had a good education, which meant getting a degree. The challenge was deciding what to study at university, should it music or business. With A levels in art, English language, music, and film studies, she chose business after careful consideration; a course with a marketing focus that would be useful in the future. “Even when I was studying I was still performing,” she says. “That’s where my heart is, business is where my head is.”
Four years ago Dara moved to Thailand speaking only the very basic Thai that her mum had taught her while on holiday here. Looking across at Dara, cascading curled blond hair, nails that were a work of art, temporary lip tattoos and four inch heels, I discovered a side of Dara I wasn’t expecting, the extreme sports presenter. Never judge a book by its cover. Despite language limitations she became an extreme sports presenter part of a team of four girls who were taught then practiced individual extreme sports. “I do like the great outdoors,”she says, “I saw this as an opportunity to improve my Thai and have fun.
“My most embarrassing moment was while I was learning to kite surf, I lifted up into the air crashed down into to cameraman and coming out of the water still laughing. It was goo fun and luckily no damage done. I did say sorry to my cameraman, but he was okay.”
Fate brought Dara and her musical partners together. Having waited for hours at a casting and running late for date, she was on the point of leaving when the girl sitting next to her mentioned almost in passing that someone she knew was looking for a singer. She wrote down the details, left, and was still on time for her date. A few days later she had a casual meeting with the guys in Starbuck, the start of the next step of this musical journey.
Birth of A Song: DJ Ash and Akash:
“Ash and I were going to a movie and I had just bought some popcorn,” says Akash, “It was then he told me he was going into music production and could we collaborate together. We had created three to four songs but shelved them when we couldn’t find the right singer. That’s what temporarily stalled the process.”
It was their coincidental meeting with Dara that jumpstarted their musical vision. She was uniquely different to other singers they had interviewed. What she had was a higher level of professionalism and musical knowledge. “What won us over was she sounds like Whitney and has untameable enthusiasm.
“Before I write a piece of music I will already have a vision in my head of the type of vocals I am looking for,”says DJ Ash, Bangkok’s No.1 Bollywood DJ. “Having written the music, I call Akash to listen to it, and he comes up with his idea. The genre of today’s music is mood and feelings, an inspirational message that people can relate to. We have an uncanny synergery and habit of finishing each other’s sentences, which makes working together both natural and fun.”
“My thought process for ‘Love Today’ is in the present.” he explains. “One day I was traveling on the skytrain and saw a lady wearing a big hat. instantly I saw Dara wearing it on the beach. Not an object of value, a mere object; a symbol of how happy she is with her life.”
When the guys handed ‘Love Today’ to Dara, she wasn’t just looking for the words and musical notes but also stage direction in the emotions they had envisaged for her performance. She then applies her music theory to give it her twist, the guys are open to change. The result is a synergy of three musical talents, an infused cross-cultural musical experience.”
“The guys sometimes want specific words to be delivered with a quirky sound,” Dara chirps in. “Delivering exactly what they envision can be difficult, it can take days or hours to get it right, but in the end we do. I am a typical Virgo. Being a perfectionist is part of my DNA. Being passionate is a admirable but it has the potential to frustrate the creative process. This song is my message I wanted to present it as if I were making a declaration in Church before God.”
Never prepared to sit back on their laurels, they are currently working on a dance club version of ‘Love Today,’ which they aim to spread to every club in the city. They are already working on a second track that they will be taking into the studio very soon. Their longer term goal is to produce Dara’s first album with each song having a different theme and feel. What they are aiming for is an international sound with a multi-cultural twist. Facebook has been instrumental in spreading the word with each of them posting on their personal pages. Drawing on Dara’s dual Thai/British ethnicity, they are first targeting the local market and when they feel the time is right, getting it played in the UK.
This is the dawn of a new musical partnership, the trinity of the singer, the songwriter, and the lyricist. Judging by the initial response of ‘Love Today,’ this is just the start with many more amazing sounds to follow. To hear ‘Love Today’ simply go to You Tube and search Dara Loy, Love Today to watch and listen to her amazing performance the product of three musical talents.