“My album ‘Perfect World’ was inspired by living this duality as an immigrant in Canada. The music mirrors the balance of being both Canadian and South Asian. Everything from the instrumentation to the vocals borrows musical concepts both from Western and Eastern musical realm. So far, the response has been overwhelming with the EP – I am blessed to have such a great support system and my South Asian community rallying behind me!”
Roveena studied psychology and music as an undergraduate at The University of Waterloo, but chose to pursue a career in Human Resources. Her love of music never diminished, and she began posting YouTube videos of her live performances. That led to a genuinely life-changing moment when Toronto’s CityTV invited Roveena to perform on their show Breakfast Television. She so stunned host Kevin Frankish with the power of her voice that a planned one minute segment turned into eight minutes, an appearance that would launch Roveena’s musical career. In addition to CityTV, she has also been featured on Slice Network, OMNI TV and has performed for the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, the NFL and TVi which boosted her profile in the South Asian community, both in Canada and internationally.
Roveena comes from a musically-oriented family. As she says, “My parents have audio tapes of me singing along to ABBA songs at 18 months.” In a conversation with Generation Next, the Tamil-Canadian songstress talks about the inspiration behind her music and her aspirations in Canada.
1. You studied psychology and music as an undergraduate at The University of Waterloo, but chose to pursue a career in Human Resources. How do you juggle between the two careers? Or is it going to be a complete transition – from HR to music?
Right now the juggling act is tough! However, when you are passionate about a dream – you make time for it! So I find myself wearing two different hats at the moment, but am hopeful that I will be able to pursue my dream full time in the future. For now, the juggling act continues!
2. You and your family have experienced a rather nomadic life – living in Sri Lanka, the U.K., and Nigeria prior to settling in Canada in the mid ’80s. But you now identify yourself as a “Canadian first”. Why did you and your family choose Canada?
Great question! I do identify myself as Canadian first; this country has always been the Perfect World for me. Canada has always embraced a multi-cultural society. When our family immigrated here in the 80s, we didn’t feel the pressure to abandon our customs from Sri Lanka. Instead, we assimilated into the Canadian culture while holding onto our traditions and beliefs from back home. It was a great balance that I naturally embraced throughout my childhood and adolescence.
3. What’s the inspiration behind your debut release ‘Perfect World’? What has been the response so far to the album?
Perfect World was inspired by living this duality as an Immigrant in Canada. The music mirrors the balance of being both Canadian and South Asian. Everything from the instrumentation to the vocals borrows musical concepts both from Western and Eastern musical realm. So far, the response has been overwhelming with the EP – I am blessed to have such a great support system and my South Asian community rallying behind me!
4. What advice would you give to immigrants who come to this country with big dreams, but still aren’t able to find their foothold in the country?
It’s very important to try finding a great support system. Try and surround yourself with friends, family or even a new network of people that you know will support and guide you. As a new immigrant to Canada, you have access to services and organizations that offer that support -– which is extremely helpful for anyone coming into this country.
5. Any artists you are inspired by?
Growing up – I was in awe of the era of our vocal Divas. From Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. As I got older, I started to have a broader musical appreciate for all genres! Ranging from Peter Gabriel, Sting and Phil Collins.
6. Your music has been described as a magical blend of ethnic and contemporary musical influences. In what way have your roots influenced your music?
Everything! My brother and I grew up listening to old classic TM Soundararajan songs my dad would play on a cassette tapes when we had to do chores around the house. As well as the latest top 40 hits! It was literally a musical melting pot of inspiration!
7. What is the one theme in your songs that has been close to your heart?
All these songs are close to my heart but the first track – Perfect World – holds a special place. It was written with my producer and addresses the pressure that comes along with body image when you’re younger. I find from personal experience that we as women struggle with this standard that is unrealistic. This song is a window to my soul.
8. What’s your opinion on the visibility of South Asians in Canada’s music scene? Who are your favourite ones?
It’s amazing! Music isn’t a traditional career path that most South Asians follow – so when we see people from our community putting themselves out there it’s a great step forward! I have a lot of respect for so many South Asian artists that are making a name for themselves – but namely Anjulie and Raghav have recently caught my attention. Both have been dedicated to their craft for years and it’s nice to see their hard work has really paid off.
9. What’s your vision for the next 10 years?
To be able to wake up in the morning and be excited to do what I love the most – music!