Rock’n’Roll and a Raison d’Être for a Bangledeshi Canadian Man
By: Justine Lyn
When Demetrius Nath was growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, he never knew that he would be up on stage rocking out on his guitar, much less that that stage would be in Mississauga. That being said, his family had always been jetsetters, following his father’s job placements all over the world.
When Demetrius was 9 years old, his father’s work with World Vision took Demetrius away from his familiar world in Bangladesh and thrust his family into the unknown world of Hong Kong. It was a culture shock to say the least.
Though he had visited East Asia numerous times, he had never lived there. The miles of skyscrapers that seemed to touch the sky were daunting and so very different to his home in Bangladesh. The schools all demanded he speak either Cantonese or English. He only vaguely knew how to read and write in English, but to actually speak English? He wasn’t so sure about that, after all, “I always spoke in Bengali because I was in Bangladesh,” Demetrius recalls. He would never be accepted into school if he could not master the language.
Demetrius’ parents had an ingenious solution. Demetrius remembers, “my parents got me a private tutor for three months. It was an older English lady that came and just hung out with me, read books with me, took me to the park and just talked to me in English and just explained. Yes, it was a really funny time.
And I remember this so well, because, she’d say “well now we are getting on the bus and we’re going to the park”.
All of these things in my head… I knew when I understood, I just couldn’t get them out of my mouth. […] I just put everything in my head and just connected the dots. […] And after those three months I could speak English fluently.”
“It was actually in Hong Kong where I remember buying my first cassette tape. [This was] ‘91 I believe, or something like that. My cassette tape with my own pocket money. And it was Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album. […] It was not until later I think when I was 12 and I was back in Bangladesh, that my friend gave me Guns and Roses cassette tape for my 12th birthday. And that’s when I really started to get into music and bands and playing guitar,” remembered Demetrius.
“As a teenager, when I started playing the guitar, I had my high school band and I had my church band. [In] my high school band, I could do whatever and be messy with my playing and be silly. But in my church band, I had to be a good musician to be in the church band. I couldn’t just fudge things or yell and scream. And I had to actually sing, actually play. So, it made me a much better musician playing at church,” recounted Demetrius.
Time passed and Demetrius attended the Western Sydney University in Australia. The year was 2001, “when everybody was starting to get computers at home and internet at home and everybody needed [a] professional,” Demetrius explained. That’s what led him to study I.T. and it suited him well enough, it seemed like the sensible thing to do.
“I was doing that, but once I went to Australia, my youth pastor at the time, they were like, “Oh you know some of those songs that you love so much that we sing, they are from this church in Sydney called Hillsong. If you ever get a chance, go check it out.” And that was it. That was the conversation,” Demetrius remembered.
That was the conversation that changed everything. He asked his friend about this Hillsong church he had heard about and to his surprise, his friend answered, “I go to Hillsong church and I teach one of the classes at Hillsong College.” Demetrius was shocked, “what are the chances, right? So he took me one day and actually the first day he took me was one of their live album recordings at the Sydney Super Dome I believe. There’s 20,000 people. And my mind was blown.”
This reinvigorated Demetrius’s passion for music and soon he too was attending Hillsong College, a Christian Bible college, which is known the world round for their musical ministry. “I took worship and creative arts, which is music and song writing. […] I took vocal lessons. I took guitar lessons. I took keyboard lessons […], all that kind of stuff,” said Demetrius.
As part of the curriculum, he was mandated to help out at their concerts. Demetrius remembers, “One of the memories I have is this guitar player that was always on stage. And I was like, “man, I want to be where he is at”. […] And I remember everybody was going home, and this guy was vacuuming between the arena carpet after his gig was done.
And I just remember seeing that level of humbleness in somebody from a band that you would think, “oh, they’re [just] here to be a Rockstar”. […] No, they’re volunteering their time. […] And I actually just sent him a message last year on Facebook. I was like, “You might not remember this memory. You might probably do this all the time, but that sort of impacts […] somebody [seeing] you are doing that.”” This generosity and humbleness, even when nobody is watching, became an inspiration for Demetrius’s future career.
Meanwhile, Demetrius’s family missed each other deeply. Demetrius explains that, “this was also the time when there was no Skype or Zoom. […] If you wanted to call somebody across the world, you’d have to go and buy those calling cards. […] You’d have to save up to talk to your family maybe once every other week for like 10 minutes. You would have no idea what’s going on with them.”
It was an exceedingly difficult time for the family, so Canada seemed to be the perfect solution. His sister was in school in Canada and his parents could find jobs. They would all be together, though according to Demetrius, “I came here with every intention of just hanging out for a few months and then going back to Australia.”
But he got comfortable, he liked the multicultural atmosphere of the GTA, where you can walk down the street and hear Bengali, as if you were right at home. So he stayed, and now years later he will admit, “you know what, in retrospect, I’m glad that it happened.”
Now in Canada, Demetrius’ thoughts turned to his career. His passion for music became no longer a hobby, but a serious career decision. As Demetrius explains, “I knew I wasn’t good enough to be a full-time musician, but I also wanted to make money being in the music industry.” Demetrius explained that this was not the path his parents had imagined their son taking.
“Now that I’m older and little bit wiser, I totally get why they grew up in a time where being a doctor, engineer, businessperson of some sort, or professor [were the default professions]. That’s what paid the bills,” he explained. Demetrius just had to prove that he could do it- and not just as a hobby.
He began researching music schools, diplomas, certificates, and everything in between. “And in a year I was in a program at Harris Institute [for a] one year diploma. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. […] They teach you everything they can about the music business in one year and everything. And so when I went in, I knew the bare minimum of sort of play, sing, record, put it out there, that’s it. But they teach you everything. And on top of that, they taught me everything also in the context of the Canadian music industry, which I was totally unfamiliar with, because I’d only been in Canada for a year,” recalled Demetrius.
In his last term there, his instructor told the class about her friend who was looking for applicants for a paid internship in the music industry. She wrote a name and number on the board.
Demetrius was exhilarated, he had never wanted anything so badly. Demetrius remembers, “I [rushed] to make a call and leave a voicemail during the break for that class. […] I guess I was a bit of a keener. […] You have to hustle. Right? Turns out this friend that was looking for interns was her husband. So, she went home and put in a good word for me, I got a call back the next day and I had an interview the week after, and three weeks later I was one of the paid interns, which lasted for two months at a company that did a lot of radio promotion [and] getting songs on the radio. And that internship led to a full-time job for six and a half years.”
The company was Dale Speaking, an independent radio promotions company in Canada. Demetrius recalled, “that was just sort of my leg up. I got to work with amazing people during my time there, internationally famous artists, independent Canadian artists. [Then,] about nine and a half years ago, I started my own company.” Demetrius explains, “You know how they say it’s not what you know it’s who you know. Right? And that I think is true for many industries, especially the music industry. However, I think that it’s not only important that people know you, but it’s also important what they know you for. […] I was the one taking care of the campaigns and the calls and all of the things. So it didn’t matter if all of those came from a different email address. Because it was still Demetrius.”
That’s how Antiskeptic Entertainment was born. Demetrius explains that, “the focus [has] always been Canada because I reach out to radio folks and record labels and artists across Canada. So I lived [in Mississauga], but I’m always going to Toronto for all of my work. Mississauga was just always where I’d come back home at the end of the night.”
In his spare time, he also started a band called Maybe May. “It’s an itch I have to scratch. Right. And I know I’m not becoming a rock star anytime soon, but I love to create, I love to play. […] We were playing in Hamilton and we were playing in Toronto. […] But what about in Mississauga? Where does one play in Mississauga? Neither of us were really familiar with the Mississauga scene.” It seemed to Demetrius that this whole time, he was missing what had been right under his nose the whole time: Mississauga.
“I started doing my research, I figured out that […] while half of these artists said that they were from Toronto, they were actually from Mississauga,” explained Demetrius. Why would they be a Toronto band if they could live, work, and play in their home city?
Demetrius began to research, “What’s there to do in Mississauga? […] I started doing research and figuring out where the pubs were and […] and what Roc’n Doc’s was. So from a business perspective, I was also curious.”
Living in City Centre, he saw each year more people, buildings and industries sprouting up, which could only mean one thing: more opportunities for the music industry here in Mississauga.
But he didn’t yet see a group to help promote this emerging Mississauga music industry. “And so that’s where the idea of Mississauga Music came out of,” recalled Demetrius.
He admits that it wasn’t always a sure thing. “Mississauga Music was an idea that […] at the time was a good idea in my head, but I wasn’t sure that it would take. […] I put in my work, but I was like, “Let’s take it year by year. If it works in year one, we do year two. If it works in year two, we do year three”. […] But after the third year seeing the impact it’s starting to have and the partners and the sponsors that come on board last year, we finally registered as a non-for-profit.”
Today, Mississauga Music is a registered non-for-profit dedicated to bringing together and nurturing Mississauga’s community of musicians, businesses, venues, promoters, creatives and the likes. They give a platform for the new wave of Mississauga artists to showcase talent here in Mississauga.
“It’s definitely very rewarding,” says Demetrius, who has now done much to make way for Mississauga artists. From owning his business, to encouraging fellow artists, to rocking out himself, Demetrius has come a long way.
From Bangladesh, to Hong Kong, to Australia, and Canada, the one constant in Demetrius’ life has been his love of music. Such a passion has likewise touched so many within the City of Mississauga. For Demetrius, he has faith in all that can be accomplished here, saying, “I’m encouraged. I think more good things will come out of Mississauga.”