Our Community Story this week, features “Dar’s number one swinger,” Mr. George DeSouza.
We had the pleasure of interviewing one of our community’s greatest musicians. By this, I mean an individual who has performed alongside greats such as Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, and Trini Lopez, just to name a few! His passion and dedication to music is the foundation of his success as a musician. George’s music has been heard and loved by those not only in Tanzania, but around the world. Beginning in Tanzania and expanding to Canada and the United States, George has had an illustrious career fueled by his love of music. This blog post is only a snapshot into this passion, but we hope to share with you George’s story, including the determination and discipline required to succeed in the entertainment industry.
When interviewing George, we were interested in understanding how he started as a musician. George’s musical history begins in Tanzania. He fondly speaks of his sister, Ivy DeSouza, who was the individual who introduced him to music. Ivy bought George his first guitar at the young age of 7. This gift was his initial blessing! George taught himself how to play the guitar. He bought several British records, and listened enthusiastically — copying the style of the guitarist, and practicing like crazy until he nailed the tune. By the age of 10, George had begun to make a name of himself by performing.
Later, his love of music led him to meet the love of his life. When George’s band was hired to play at a dance, a love of music transpired into George meeting his wife, Daun. Daun worked for the Canadian embassy in Tanzania. After several month of dating they got married in Dar es Salaam. Daun always supported George in his performances, and he lovingly credits her for “being my rock”.
At the age of 22, George was known as “Dar’s number one swinger”! George knew he wanted to take his talent and family to the next step. Shortly, him and Daun soon set sail to start a new life in Canada.
George and Daun have lived across Canada — from Montreal, Calgary and Toronto. During this time, George recalled the hard work he put in in order to make a living. George stated:
“It’s tough to be a musician and support your family. Sometimes we didn’t eat for two days because we couldn’t afford to. Being a musician was hard, but I knew I was half-way there and needed to push through. I struggled and worked so hard. I would play the guitar and my fingers would bleed. People didn’t understand — they thought being a musician was not a real career.”
After playing in Calgary for a while, George signed with an agent and had his first break at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. Here he played for 25 years, and was the first Goan/Tanzanian to make a break in Toronto! Performing at the Royal York was exhilarating and always presented a unique story. George played from 7pm to 7am on some nights. Often, he played for 5 hours nonstop. He said his favorite memories were made at the Royal York Hotel. He performed with many renowned musicians during this period. This included one of his musical idols, Trini Lopez. George stated, “ I never dreamt in a million years I would meet the people whose music I used to play.”
He recalls all the great friends and artists he met during this period of his life. He fondly recalls how wonderful this time was for him. Even Toronto recognized his talent, featuring his music in the Toronto Star newspaper!
One of the highlights of our interview with George was hearing his perspective of performing. We asked George what he felt when he was performing — especially when playing with famous artists from all over the world. We asked George whether he was excited or thrilled when preparing for a performance. George answered saying before every show, he was nervous and sweating! He said this feeling is so important — each time you perform, you should push your boundaries & comfort zone in order to give your best performance. George says you should never stop learning. After the first 1–2 songs of his show, the nerves would settle, and he would begin to understand his audience. By his third song, he was “in the groove”. George says, “being a musician is being a showman.” It is important to understand the people in the crowd. Entertaining involves joking, talking and moving the crowd. This is how you build a connection between your music and the people.
Today, George continues to brighten other people’s lives with his music. He now spends his time teaching younger children how to play the guitar. His advice to the youth in our community is to work hard. He stresses the importance of education and continuous learning. George says to never give up. He notes there were several times where he wanted to give up, but he kept pushing through.
On a fun note, we asked George who his favourite artists are. His said he loves Led Zeppelin, Miley Cyrus and Bruno Mars. His favourite artist of all time is Elvis Presley. “Thank you, thank you very much!”
Finally, we’d like to thank Mr. George DeSouza for sharing his inspiring story with us. It is a true testament to the hard work and perseverance required to succeed in all aspects of your life.