Dia Thanki – aka DIA – studied BSc Management and Systems, and went on to be a project manager and then founded her own record label. She will be playing her first solo concert on 24th September. We had a chat about this exciting change of direction!
Tell me about your time at Cass
I did my undergraduate degree at Cass – I studied a BSc (Hons) Management and Systems and I did well – I got a 2:1 and really enjoyed the experience. I met great people from all around the world, and I still keep in touch with some of the lecturers. It was a really inspiring time.
What did you get up to next?
I got a studentship to do a Masters in Management Information Systems at Cranfield University. This was a one year course and when I finished I couldn’t find the role I wanted, so I joined a Motown group called “Mission Blue” for a short time as a backing singer and dancer and we performed nationally. We performed covers of all the classic Motown hits, but I left because I realised I prefer to be a solo artist, performing my own songs.
I eventually got hired at Lehman Brothers having taken a gap year as a teenager to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers in their Corporate & International Tax division. I then moved to Turner & Townsend, a construction project management firm where I worked as an Information Systems Manager. Following this, I fell in to project management with the likes of British Telecom, Bupa and many more private and public sector clients as a freelance Consultant, advising on operational and strategic planning.
Though I was successful at my work, I realised that this wasn’t fulfilling, so I decided to go to LA. I joined a vocal camp in the summer, and was coached by Seth Riggs who has coached the likes of Beyonce and Michael Jackson. I went there for a few weeks and learned important concepts like vocal technique, stage presence, production and song writing – and it spurred me on to start following through with my dream to be a singer.
When did you start being interested in music?
When I was 5 years old I had a keyboard my aunty bought me and I just started playing it intuitively – so that was really the first sign that I had a propensity towards music. I properly fell into music around age 13. I participated in a song contest in London and I was a finalist alongside a few others in the same age category, and we performed in front of 500 people. I also then chose to do GCSE music.
Also my aunty ran a community group called Holly Hall Music, so I went along and met lots of other teens with different talents and we performed every year at different venues like Islington Town Hall and various theatres. I had a very active extra-curricular life with playing the keyboard, singing, choreography and dancing during my teenage years. Patrick Jean-Paul Denis was my vocal coach and gave me the support I needed to develop my voice.
So, your first solo show?
I finally set up my own record label about two and half years ago. I decided I want to write songs, manage and co-produce the set. I’ve had ups and downs in the industry so it’s nice to have that control. My first solo concert will be on 24th September.
I’m the headliner and I’ve got producers from Paris (Audible Art) and the Netherlands (Roman & Ravy) working on the music production. It’s going to be more of a dance production rather than a live band; I’ve got Del Mak on board. He is one of the UK’s top choreographers and often gets invited to be a judge at hip-hop competitions. My concert on the 24th September is at the Watermans Theatre in Brentford near Chiswick, West London.
What has been your main challenge along the way?
Being ethnically Indian (I was actually born in Kenya and I grew up in London), people in the industry have always wanted me to fuse Bollywood and pop music and I didn’t really want to do that as it’s not really my style. I love urban music – hip hop, dancehall and house music. There are some world influences in some of my songs but I’m trying to break free from this box they often try to put artists in and I just want to produce pioneering, great quality work to attract a diverse demographic regardless or gender, ethnicity or age.
Do you have any advice for anyone following in your footsteps?
I’m still at the early stages of my music career but I would say that I don’t have any regrets regarding my late start into music. My project management background has certainly helped me run my own label, especially with the multitasking and delegating – there are lots of transferable skills so if anyone is considering a career transition, I think they should maximise their past experiences and apply their skills into their new career. Nothing is ever wasted and it’s all part of the journey.
Having said that, there are moments where I wished I had followed my passion earlier, however, I guess everything happens for a reason. If you have a passion for something, you should definitely follow it, even if it’s part-time to begin with.
Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Erm.. The Shard GONG bar – it has a fantastic view of London and I always feel so grateful to be living in one of the best cities in the world!
Favourite holiday destination: Bali without a doubt!
Must check every day website: www.iamdia.com
Dream travel destination: Hawaii
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese (when I’m not going through my vegan phase!) – I’ve not got much of a sweet tooth!
Follow DIA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via @iamdiauk. To buy tickets for DIA’s concert visit the booking website or call Chilli Tickets directly on 020 3474 0674.