Under the beaming fluorescent lights, emerald and navy signs read “Departures” and “Gates 1 – 40 This Way.” People are lining up to be directed through the buzzing metal detector while others are gathering their belongings from the plastic bins. Immediately after the security boundary is crossed, music can be heard emanating from the next open room.
The vast environment is engulfed with an ambient, fingerpicked guitar melody accompanied by the words “And you’ll fly home, and you’ll fly home,” in a soothing tone. The harmonious sound is coming from a dark-complexioned man sitting on an airport bench, plucking at a Seagull acoustic guitar and baring his soul into a microphone.
With a heartbreak-haunted voice, Mohsin Zaman brings his song to a blissful halt.
In just two years, Zaman has become a recognized name in the Edmonton music scene, and he has an impressive résumé of shows around the Alberta festival circuit: the Wild Mountain Music Festival, North Country Fair and the Edmonton Folk Festival—where he received the Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2015. This past February, he opened for acclaimed Canadian rock band the Trews.
“It’s great to feel appreciated and connected to anyone through your art,” Zaman says. “I can’t explain the feeling. It gives me the drive to work harder and create more.”
Zaman was born and raised on the whirling streets of Dubai. Growing up, his parents were constantly juggling to make ends meet while raising he and his sister on the “righteous path.”
“I’ll use five adjectives to describe my parents,” he says. “Believers, patient, big-hearted, selfless and hard working.”
Zaman has transferred all five of these descriptors directly into his music career. After coming to Canada in 2008, Zaman began slowly gigging in Kamloops, BC until moving to Edmonton in 2013. Once in Edmonton, Zaman truly jumped into the music scene—in March 2016, he daringly quit his full-time job at RBC to focus on music.
“What made me give this a go? I think at some point you just have to ‘give ‘er,’ and follow a dream by leading it,” he says. “I think it was just time.”
He could have easily moved on to a bigger city like Vancouver or Toronto to enhance his career, but Zaman decided to stay in Edmonton.
“If someone believes in you, they push you and help in any way they can,” he explains. “There isn’t that sense of ego and jealousy. Edmonton is a prime example of the word ‘community.'”
Zaman extended that sense of community to newcomers in December 2015 by writing a song called “Marhaba, Marhaba” for the Syrian refugees. The Arabic song title translates to “Welcome, Welcome,” and it was played live during the refugees’ arrival at the Edmonton airport.
“Being born and raised in the Middle East, I know a few friends who were affected by the events in Syria,” he says. “Music connects, and what better way to connect than greeting people who have experienced such hardships than with a song they can understand in their language?”
Zaman is currently gearing up in anticipation for his newest full-length album, Fly Home. The single and title track begins with sensual, folk-styled guitar work underneath Zaman’s atmospheric voice and eventually explodes into an ethereal indie-rock anthem.
Zaman will also be releasing a new song titled “Life is A Journey,” to build anticipation for Fly Home. Like most of his songs, the soon-to-be released track explores a newfound sound to complement Zaman’s empyreal indie-folk approach.
“I’m really excited to see what people think of the new album. I think my concept of ‘sound,’ will always be evolving,” he says. “As clichéd as it sounds, I just want to create music that I like and connects with the listener. The money is an afterthought.”
Thu, May 26 (8 pm)
With Lucette, Braden Gates
The Needle, $15 in advance,
$20 at the door