DJ Reyaz: Meet the Indo-Guyanese DJ Who Is Breaking Down Barriers
Written by Rebecca Dass & Felicia Gopi
Sunday May 7, 2023
“I played my music, and I felt very happy”
Making waves as a DJ, Reyaz has proved that anything is possible with hard work, determination, and a wholehearted love for what you do. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the 25-year-old on National Down Syndrome Day (March 21) to chat about his experiences.
We all know how much music is a huge part of Indo-Caribbean culture. The uplifting energy that comes with hearing a DJ blast soca and dancehall music at an event is one of the key moments that inspired Reyaz to learn more about his craft. Located in Etobicoke, Ontario, Reyaz started to DJ in 2017 when he saw another DJ perform at a party. “I was at my cousin's 16th birthday and I saw the DJ playing, so I wanted [to do the same],” he says. You can see his eyes light up as he recalls the moment he was inspired to pursue his passion for music.
Reyaz, Canadian-born to Indo-Guyanese parents, learned how to DJ during a three-month long course located in downtown Toronto. He opened up to us about the exciting journey he took and how it was an opportunity for him to feel independent and do something on his own. “[It was] a big experience for me, I was ready to go on my own,” he says. “My dad took me to Islington [station]. I went on the train on my own, took the bus, and I walked to school. Then I looked for the number for the door, I went in and then I saw the teacher who helped me to learn [how to DJ] in the class.”
After just a few minutes of speaking with Reyaz it’s clear to us that his love for music really brings him joy and gives him purpose. “I like to play soca and calypso and dancehall,” he says, speaking on his favourite genres of music, adding that his favorite artist to play is Machel Montano.
“My first DJ event was at my aunt's 60th birthday. It was a surprise party and I was there [playing]. I played my music, and I felt very happy because I like music.”
Reyaz has played numerous events since he first started, but tells us that his favourite event he’s played so far happens to be Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association’s own LGBTQ+ Holiday Brunch. He played soca, bollywood, and chutney tunes at the Brunch event last December, noting it was a different experience for him, which he really enjoyed.
Speaking on the role that down syndrome plays in his daily life, his mom Camille tells us, “It limits the things you can do since it causes intellectual and developmental problems which can be mild, moderate or severe. Since down syndrome varies in severity among individuals, we've been blessed that Reyaz is on the higher end of the spectrum and totally independent.”
Living with down syndrome may come with its obstacles, but Reyaz has mastered problem solving and handling things well when things go unexpectedly. He shared with us a story about a time he once got lost downtown, but managed to find his way in the end.
“I had to go to school and I had to take the bus and the train on my own, and I came to Yonge and Bloor. That's my moms workplace, so I called my mom [asking], ‘Where are you? I’m waiting for you.’ I came up with the wrong train and it isn’t the train I wanted to take to meet my mom. So I started to walk and went to the lobby and asked ‘Where is my mom?’ and they told me ‘Who is your mom? I don’t know who your mom is,’ he laughs recalling the moment.
“I went all the way up to the 19th floor and asked where my mom was, and they said ‘I’m sorry she's not in the office.’ I went down and called my mom’s cousin and said ‘I'm looking for my mom, can you find her for me.’ I keep walking down the street and I wait for the right sign to go, and I keep walking to the train station and I finally see my mom.”
“We went through every scenario that I could possibly think of,” Camille says, on preparing Reyaz in case something went wrong. “But he did everything right, he went upstairs to look for me, he went to the lobby to find out if they knew anything, he called someone responsible to tell them he was lost. Because I was in the subway I wasn’t getting reception. But I said to him, ‘I know I can trust you, because you did everything right.’”
It’s an inspiring moment for us to witness Reyaz and his mom’s recounting of events. You can see how proud he was of himself, and you can also see the love they share for one another.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is people think that a person with DS can't have a ‘normal’ life, but with the right guidance and support anyone with a disability can be functional in society,” Camille says. “Everyone has the same emotions and feelings and people should educate themselves, get to know the person instead of having preconceived notions of what they can or cannot do.”
Hailing from Guyana, Reyaz’s parents Camille and Raouf are his biggest supporters. “I tell [my friends] what I have been doing so far, my mom pushed me to do a lot of activities, because it takes a lot of time to do. My parents push me to a lot of upcoming events. They push me to do a lot of things that I want to do.”
Reyaz’s parents have been an integral part of his success and it was heartwarming to watch him express his gratitude for his parents.
When he’s not playing music, Reyaz keeps himself busy, and is proud of all that he does. “I’m actually working, I have two part time jobs,” he says. “I’m working at a company named Tubefit Inc., I go to the gym once a month to clean it, I am a small business entrepreneur, I’m a volunteer DJ for Bryan’s place.” In addition he also continues his education with Kumon doing math and reading. “I feel very independent,” he says.
“I've been selling my custom totes on the side. Nesa helps me design them,” he says, talking about his small business. The program which helps make this possible is funded by Smile Canada, who selected 6 participants to open small businesses. Reyaz was one of them, and they had designers and a team of people to sit with them and help them with their designs. Reyaz is proud to talk about his small business selling custom tote bags and t-shirts, from which a portion of the sales go back to charity.
Reyaz is a trailblazer for the Indo-Caribbean community, proving that anyone can achieve their goals with determination and a positive attitude. He has broken down barriers and shown that having a disability does not have to limit your potential. His love for music and his ability to spread joy through his DJing is an inspiration to all, and we can't wait to see what he will achieve next!
About the Author
Rebecca is a Toronto-based writer and digital marketer, currently working in book publishing. With a BA in Sociology and a minor in Caribbean Studies, she joined the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association to continue her interest in researching and writing content about Indo-Caribbean history and culture.
About the Author
Felicia is the editor in chief of Story, a newsletter by the Indo-Caribbean Canadian Association. She also works in digital marketing with a background in beauty and fashion. She began volunteering with the Indo-Caribbean Association to contribute directly to her community and to learn from other like-minded individuals.
For more information visit feliciagopi.ca