Asif Illyas is a veteran of 30 years in the Canadian music scene. He has won numerous awards for his work in the pop songwriting and producing realm as well as composing for film and TV features. His extensive touring experience in bands over the years has taken him all over the world, performing on stages and in festivals with some of the world’s best including Colin Hay (Men At Work), Paula Cole, and producing and writing for Canadian acts like Ria Mae and Ashley MacIssac.
He played guitar for the hit UK 80’s group, Cutting Crew (“I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight”), during lead singer Nick Van Eede’s reformation of the group in the late 1990’s. In the late 2000’s, after his success with experimental pop band, MIR, and 8 tours of Germany for the band’s major label deal with Warner/EastWest Deutschland, he settled down in his hometown of Halifax Nova Scotia to embark on a successful career of scoring music for dramatic and documentary feature films as well as commercial themes and TV series soundtracks which has won him several major film festival awards and nominations for films like Michael Melski’s horror feature, “The Child Remains”, Jason Buxton’s Cannes Winning “Blackbird”, Bruce Macdonald’s CSA-winning “Weirdos” and NFB’s gorgeous documentary feature, “The Chocolate Farmer” by Rohan Fernando, among many others.
After his daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 2, Illyas decided that his touring days were on hold so that he could help take care of her so, in 2013, Asif released his ECMA award-winning debut solo album, “Synesthesia”, where he performed all the instruments himself. Still continuing to have challenges figuring out ways to stay home from touring and create music, in 2018, he released a unique online music show called “Live On The Flight Deck”, an aerial version of Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee”, where he took musician collaborators such as George Canyon and Alan Doyle on flights in a Boeing 737 simulator, hand-crafted by himself, above places they toured which brought him national media attention.
In 2020, he released “Arrows” exclusively online during the pandemic lock-down and learned the skills for producing high-quality online performances which, after a stint in 2021 with severe Covid-19 in hospital, led to his current YouTube series released in 2022 called “The Songs That Shaped Me”.
With, now 15-year-old, Ava, he is showcasing songs that have been special to him during his life, going year by year, from 1978 to the present. They livestream the performances, raw and real, and Asif uses a new technique he learned recently of “percussive guitar” which aims to make the acoustic guitar have rhythm accompaniment all at once. Along with Ava’s talented ear, they perform intimate, acoustic versions along with original songs written during Asif’s extensive career.
He lives in Halifax with his wife and two children, continuing to perform when possible and creating film and multimedia music. Currently, along with his performance series, he is creating the musical score for the new main stage production by the world-renowned Mermaid Theatre along with several themes for TV.
“Chiquitita” (ABBA) Percussive guitar and vocal cover by Asif & Ava Illyas