Ada Dahli’s hair is wild. It defies gravity in tight brown curls that lend an extra four inches to her height. It doesn’t sit still. Sadly, she has to strap it down to go to her day job as a funeral director. Not many 25-year olds introduce themselves as such; and truthfully, I was not prepared to hear that she handled dead bodies. A woman with so much zest for life seems destined for something more than picking up the deceased. Maybe that’s why she’s so invested in her band, Ada Dahli & The Pallbearers.
Originally from Chatham, Ontario, Ada left southwestern Ontario to attend college. She chose funeral services as her chosen profession because it was a way out of the small town and into the working world quickly. Music was not a career she wanted to plunge into. “I was more concerned with not being homeless,” she explained. “I was really high-strung.” But, she needed to leave Chatham. By the end of high school, she was disenchanted with the living. “I didn’t care [in high school] because I couldn’t connect with people. I didn’t have a problem speaking with people, but I didn’t get the point. When I chose to go into it [the program], the ignorance of it was like, ‘they’re dead! I don’t have to talk to anyone.’ Because I didn’t like people.”
It was after she rejected her social circle that she began to look for an emotional outlet. Her internship in Mississauga led her to pick up a guitar again – a hobby she had toyed with briefly in high school but didn’t take seriously until she found herself lonesome in the middle of suburbia. “It was a really big outlet. It staved off cabin fever, loneliness. I was friends with coworkers, but it wasn’t the same.” When her internship ended, she found herself in Toronto. She gravitated towards Kensington Market and found the exact opposite of her isolation in Mississauga. She found a community.
It started with the leader of Lemon Bucket Orchestra (Marek Marczyk) and sleeping in the park. She’d return each day and find more members of the community to hang out with, play music, talk, and engage with – until one day, she was invited by Marczyk to live in the Owl’s Nest, a large house in the west-end where some of Toronto’s most creative minds live and work, including many members of Fedora Upside Down, the artistic collective of which Ada is a part. There, she found a set of friends and fellow oddballs who were more than willing to draw out Ada’s musical abilities.
Living in the Owl’s Nest has led to Ada embracing her musical side and it’s opened her eyes to how much she’s learned and still wants to learn. “Learning is so important. As far as you can take yourself…until you find other people to bounce yourself off of…it’s such a small scale of what you’re capable of doing. And if you’re open to change, and when you see people and how they affect you, [you ask yourself], ‘is it legitimately what they’re doing or do I have a wall up?’ And so a lot of those [walls] came down.”
Ada’s music career is just beginning, and her excitement is palpable. “Now my engine’s running. Life is so awesome right now.”
WORDS: OLGA KWAK
PHOTOS: CHANTAL RYANNE
HAIR & MUA: SARA FRATIA