UAE-born singer Benny Dayal to rock Al Mina India Fest

The Indian singing sensation Benny Dayal is the big draw at this year's India Fest, organised by the Indian Social and Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi.

Benny Dayal performing in Chennai. SL Shanth Kumar
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India Fest is a three-day cultural and entertainment extravaganza, organised by the Indian Social and Cultural Centre (ISC) in Abu Dhabi and taking place at the ISC premises in the city. It is expected to attract more than 30,000 visitors, who will get the chance to witness cultural performances, folkloric activities and various displays showcasing everything from handicrafts to traditional cuisine.

While more than 100 Indian artists will converge on the capital to perform in front of people from all over the country, the ISC has saved the best for last. To wrap up the festival, it is presenting a concert on Thursday, featuring one of India's hottest singers - Benny Dayal.

Local boy done good

Dayal was born and grew up in Abu Dhabi, and moved to India to complete his higher education, which is also where he struck pay dirt as a performing artist.

"I started singing and dancing at a very early age. I largely credit that to the genes I got from my mother - who was a bharatnatyam and kathakali dancer for over 17 years.

As I moved to India, I could sense myself becoming a better performer. I was participating in and competing in college-level events. I knew that this is what I wanted to do for a living."

The Rahman connection

He did, however, do the sensible thing and took up a job after he graduated. It was while he was working that he got a call from the studios of the living legend AR Rahman.

"I never tried to reach out to him myself. Everyone knows that that's not how it works with him. He is such a huge entity and I guess he must have his own sources, because till this date, I don't know how or from whom his people got my number. But I got called and I went in and saw them and there has been no looking back," reveals Dayal.

In 2007 he sang his first Rahman song for a Tamil film. He became a household name in 2008 with the super-hit Pappu Can't Dance Saala (also by Rahman) from the film Jaane Tu … Ya Jaane Na.

Since then, he has lent his voice to countless Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu songs.

Since leaving the UAE as a student all those years ago, Dayal has returned to the country about 40 times to perform in Dubai, and once in Abu Dhabi.

The performance at ISC is going to be like nothing before, he says. "This show is going to be memorable," he promises, "because this time I am doing an 'only me' show, with my own band Funktuation. This is the real Benny Dayal."

Beautiful chemistry

Funktuation came together in November 2011, with Dayal on vocals, Joshua Satya on the guitar, Carl Fernandez on bass, Alok Merwin on keyboards, David Joseph on drums and Toby Joseph as sound engineer.

"We play at festivals across India as well as the college circuit … all the top business and technical schools," explains Dayal. "We've just completed a year and we have come so far so fast.

"Our chemistry is beautiful on stage. Everybody's understanding of the entire line-up of songs is superb. It's been effortless working with them.

"This is the first time the band is performing overseas, so it will definitely be an experience not to be missed. It's going to be so much fun, so improvised, so relatable … all I can say is that it is going to be like a party, that's what I am looking forward to. We are going to go all out on this one!"

Benny Dayal Live in Concert, Thursday, at the India Social & Cultural Centre, Al Mina, Abu Dhabi. Call 02 673 0066 or email for details.

For more information on India Fest, visit (The National is a media partner for India Fest 2013)