Growing up in Canada, Justin Ashar always dreamt of living in the United States. Throughout his childhood, he fantasized about being able to go to school in America and start a new life there. When his dad was suddenly presented with the opportunity to move to the US for work, Ashar’s dreams quickly came true. After graduating from high school in Colorado, he went on to graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in geology
Growing up in Canada, Justin Ashar always dreamt of living in the United States. Throughout his childhood, he fantasized about being able to go to school in America and start a new life there. When his dad was suddenly presented with the opportunity to move to the US for work, Ashar’s dreams quickly came true. After graduating from high school in Colorado, he went on to graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in geology.
After graduation, Ashar was given 3 months on his visa to find a job in the United States, or else he would be forced to move back to Canada. Determined to remain in the country, he accepted a rather grueling job in the northern part of Alaska on an oil rig that required him to work 12+ hour night shifts without weekends or breaks for 4 weeks at a time. He would wind up working in this fashion for 3 years before finally transitioning to an office job. As if his hard work wasn’t enough, he was laid off as a result of the oil industry crashing.
Although he was unemployed, he used this time to get married to his girlfriend of 7 years and was able to obtain a green card. He was not allowed to work during the entire application process, so he picked up some hobbies to pass the time. One hobby he became deeply invested in was playing the harmonium, an Indian keyboard instrument. As a joke, he decided to record himself covering a hit pop song with the instrument and upload it to Facebook. He thought little of it at the time, but this video would be a catalyst in his life and lead him on an unexpected journey towards a prominent career in music.
He admits he fell in love with entrepreneurship as a mistake, and he has always loved to experiment. This affinity for trying new things and thinking outside of the box is what helped his harmonium video garner over 1 million views on Facebook, and he began to realize that he could leverage his creative thinking and experimental nature to push himself further in the music industry.
With his newfound record label, Pug Life Records, Justin started creating more projects with harmonium. He started to experiment with a synthesizer and a “talk box” to be able to add vocal effects to his music as he collaborated with fellow producers. His following grew on Instagram, and he gained a reputation of being an internet troll as he dressed up in traditional Indian clothing and wore a pug dog mask over his head. In his Instagram Stories, he developed meme-worthy stickers for his pug dog character which reached over 100-million views across the world.
Justin’s first major project with his label was an electronic cover of Khalid’s “Young Dumb & Broke” with producer, SREYAS, using harmonium and talk box. For the music video, he invited a bunch of his friends from different ethnicities to have a pani puri (golgappa) eating contest. He thought it would be funny to bring other cultures in on the fun and enjoy Indian street food. This project propelled Justin’s label to further success, and other celebrity artists started to join the label, including tabla star, Shobhit Banwait.
With all of his success, Ashar still values authenticity and being transparent in failure just as he would with his successes. He knows that no one is winning at all times regardless of what they portray on social media, and that is why he pushes a message of transparency and raw emotion to help inspire his audience with truthful content. He is the first to admit that he has faced hardship in his life, and he was still unsure of a future in music even after going viral with his original harmonium video.
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Last Updated Mar 31, 2021, 7:40 PM IST