A sales and marketing manager, in a power tools company on weekdays, Rauf dedicates his weekends to practising music. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Does your regular eight-to-five job never leave you the time to pursue your passion? Dubai expat Rayshad Rauf proves that time or the lack thereof, is just an excuse. A sales and marketing manager, in a power tools company on weekdays, Rauf dedicates his weekends to practising music.

His hard work recently brought him fame. In February he took his first step in the Malayalam film industry, as a playback singer. His song Melle Melle, from the new Malayalam movie, June, was an instant hit. Within just a few weeks it crossed over a million views.

Music a habit for this Dubai boy

While his family is originally from Thalassery in the South Indian state of Kerala, Rauf was born and raised in Dubai, UAE. A student of Our Own English High School, he was always fascinated with music. He recalled: “My father always used to listen to the radio back then, at home and while driving. At that time, Dubai had only one radio station. I used to tag along with him almost everywhere. Before I knew it, music became a habit.”

My father always used to listen to the radio back then, at home and while driving. At that time, Dubai had only one radio station. I used to tag along with him almost everywhere. Before I knew it, music became a habit.

- Rayshad Rauf, playback singer

Childhood inspiration

Rauf always had a leaning towards arts and music. Boney M, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, George Michael were the top on his playlist, back then. He also had many Indian songs. He added: “My collection quadrupled when AR Rahman became popular in the mid-90s. I also loved Malayalam songs composed by Johnson Master, a renowned and respected music composer in the Malayalam film industry.”

A Sony Walkman gifted by a friend in 1995, was instrumental in his curiosity to grow not just for the music and its lyrics but also orchestration and music programming.

Rauf moved to India briefly for higher studies. He got a chance to meet young aspiring artists and musicians, who inspired him: “I met Sayonara, the now famous Malayalam singer, her father was a Western music teacher and he gave me some valuable insights.” Rauf gradually focused on understanding and experimenting with music production software.

A regular eight-to-five job

He returned to Dubai in search of a regular job that would give him a steady monthly income and landed himself a job in the power tools industry. However, he did not let his busy lifestyle become an obstacle between him and music.

While work was five days a week, weekends were strictly for family and music.

A Facebook friend who proved lucky

After Facebook came into existence in 2006, youngsters all over the world made new friends on the new social media channel. Rauf made a friend, too - but this was no ordinary friend: “In 2008, I met Ifthikarali Azeez on Facebook. A music lover, Ifthi’s claim to fame then, was a music album he had made while he was a school student. The song, apparently, had become very popular.”

Rayshad met Ifthikarali Azeez (Right) on Facebook in 2008. Image Credit: Supplied

Rauf added: “He was based in Dubai too. We chatted online and I sent him some tracks that I had recorded at home. Eventually, we met and synced right away.”

Ifthikarali Azeez better known as “Ifthi”, later became popular in the Malayalam music industry and in 2018, directed the music for the Malayalam movie June.

Family and friends

At times, Rauf felt like quitting, but he was surrounded by friends and family who urged him to keep going: “Most of them ensured I don’t quit. Because I did, many a times.

Rayshad Rauf with his wife and two children. Image Credit: Supplied

“I know some people who say that once you’re married it’s all over. But my wife, whom I married in 2008 and my family supported my aspirations. They patiently watched me step, leap, fall and repeat.”

He has limited time during weekends so he tries his best to dedicate enough time to music, I make sure we give him that space while he does so. His creativity is best when he is left alone in a studio... we don't get to listen him composing or singing very often. But, when we do, our children and I enjoy every bit of it!

- Shani, Rayshad's wife

First step into the world of recording:

“In 2012, Ifthi called me up when I was visiting Kerala. I met him and, our first single, That Moment was born.”

The pair were elated with the response of this first collaboration: “It was played at Dubai radio stations - both Hindi and Malayalam. From then on it was upwards. I met Zan, a radio jockey in Dubai and we recorded a soundtrack for an award winning short film called Leave Me Behind.”

The first playback singing gig

“I got a call from Ifthi last year (mid-2018) asking me to send my vocal samples for this song, which was untitled back then. After much nervousness and a few takes, my vocal recordings were approved. It was exciting.”

Ifthikarali Azeez told Gulf News: “I always felt he had great potential in him. When the song in the movie June was made, his singing style fit right in.”

The Dubai expat is very excited that the new movie is playing very successfully and has been getting positive comments: “The song has reached more than 1.1m views on YouTube – something completely new for me.”

So, does that mean he will quit work to sing full time?

Not yet, Rauf added: “For now, I plan to continue working and living in Dubai. And, will be travelling more often to India for music projects.”