Connecting through music to raise dementia awareness

On Sunday, August 16, at 5 p.m., acclaimed Canadian musician Tariq will be performing as a part of the livestreamed Mainland Concert Series, which highlights local artists and allows them to raise funds for causes close to their heart. Tariq generously selected the Alzheimer Society of B.C. as his charity of choice, in memory of his mother, Celestine Hussain, who passed away last year from Alzheimer’s disease.

Music played a deeply personal role throughout Tariq’s life and his relationship with his mother, themes he is reflecting while writing his memoir. “We always listened to records… she had some vinyl records of Fijian and Indian music, so I remember listening to them growing up,” Tariq recalls. “She’d sing along with the songs, and something I remember her doing was translating the songs… she’d say, ‘Well, this song means this,’ or ‘What they’re trying to say in this song is this.’ She was always bringing me closer to music in different ways.”

As Tariq grew older, his mother continued to help him develop a love of music, gifting him a handheld radio, and in his teenage years, his first guitar. “She was always able to keep threading music into my life,” Tariq says. The importance of music came full circle when, towards the end of his mother’s life, his sister and nieces would bring their ukuleles when they visited her. The family played a mixture of classics from Celestine’s childhood, such as the Fijian “Isa Lei,” as well as iconic country songs such as John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Marty Robbins’ “Red River Valley.”

Celestine’s passion for music moulded both his career and outlook on life. “Music becomes a way of seeing the world. It’s a way to take in and process information: it becomes ingrained in your operating system,” Tariq says.

Tariq suggests that listening to and making music can be excellent tools for connection for families facing a dementia diagnosis. “Music really was our way of connecting with my mother towards the end of her life. It was really a perfect way to have interactions with her, as it didn’t put her in the situation of having to answer questions, but we were able to engage and we really felt like it was reaching her.” Tariq recalls one day he was playing songs to his mother. After noticing her eyes were closed, he assumed she was asleep and stopped playing. He was overjoyed to hear her softly say, “More please.”

Tariq found his mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease difficult to watch and recollects how in the early stages of his mother’s diagnosis, she knew something wasn’t right and felt frustrated that she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

“Any awareness that can be brought to it, any conversation that can be brought to it, hopefully offers some support for others who are going through it. If we can be aware of it, and if we can understand it more, maybe there are ways to, if not cure it, to find better ways of living with it,” he says.

Tariq’s fundraiser is part of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Anything for Alzheimer’s program, which supports British Columbians to use their talents, passions and ideas to raise funds to help people who are living with dementia. If you or someone close to you has a fundraising idea, visit to register your unique, personal fundraiser.

To buy tickets for Tariq’s performance, in support of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. visit

If you or someone you know has questions about dementia, or needs support, contact our first link helpline. The helpline is available in English at 1-800-936-6033 from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cantonese and Mandarin at 1-833-674-5007 (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Punjabi at 1-833-674-5003 (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Last Updated: 08/14/2020