“You Can’t Stop the Fire”: Student musician, hair braider performs at Philly Style

Charli Dahni, who signed to Bell Tower Music this semester, creates music and runs Delicately Done, a hair braiding business she started in high school.

Charli Dahni takes the stage at Philly Style Pizza & Grill Friday night | DUAY AUGUSTINE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Friday night at Philly Style Pizza & Grill, the harmonic sounds of Charli Dahni’s smooth R&B vocals filled the air as fans and pizza customers filtered in and out of the packed shop.

Dahni, a junior media studies and production major, played a 30-minute set of old and new songs, including a sneak peek of an unreleased track titled “You Can’t Stop the Fire.” 

The show, opened by Wagon, a Temple indie rock band, started at 9 p.m. As the two sets went on, students and friends of the performers standing shoulder-to-shoulder bounced off each other as they sang and danced to the music.

“I’ve never heard their music before, so I was like wowed,” said Sofia Bongiovanni, a sophomore undeclared major.

Dahni is a multi-talent, as her creativity isn’t just limited to her stage presence or lyrical ability. She also operates Delicately Done, her own hair-braiding business which she started in high school around the same time she began releasing her music.

At 17, she put out her first album, “A Poem About a Butterfly.” Now 21, Dahni signed with Bell Tower Music, Temple’s record label, this semester and plans to release new music for the first time since 2021. 

Dahni has two full-length R&B albums and an EP, with her style ranging from the smooth neo-soul sound of her song “Time Goes By” to the soft acoustics on “Purple Orchids.”  

Alongside her budding music career, Dahni established Delicately Done in 2020 after quitting her part-time retail job. 

“I was working at Old Navy, and I was tired of working at Old Navy,” Dahni said. “So I wanted to do something that allowed me to have a schedule on my own because my school schedule was already so rigorous.”

Dahni sees roughly two to three clients a week between Philadelphia and her hometown Prince George’s County, Maryland. She often struggled to manage her business along with her music and took a step back from music for her first two years of college to focus on her academics. 

While Dahni hasn’t stopped performing in both Philadelphia and the D.C. area, her last EP, “Pinky Stiletto,” dropped just weeks before she started at Temple in August 2021. 

Now, finally feeling adjusted to her hectic college lifestyle, Dahni is ready to dive back into music with support from Bell Tower Music and her own methods of making space for herself.

“I know when to cut back and say ‘You know what, Charli? No, we’re gonna focus on music this week or this month. We’re dedicating our time to Charli,’” Dahni said.

While Dahni’s delicate balance of careers may seem daunting to some, she can’t imagine a different life. Even when the work gets tiring, doing what she loves often makes her forget the amount of responsibilities she has on her plate.

“Music is my heart, music is what moves me to keep pushing on every day and to keep creating and connecting,” Dahni said. “So that’s really what I want to do, but anything that can allow me to be creative, I love to do and braiding allows me to be creative and create with my hands and that’s what I love to do as well.”

Since signing to Bell Tower Music, after a classmate who worked in the artists and repertoire department scouted her, Dahni has worked with the label to plan her next single release. “You Can’t Stop the Fire” is expected to drop this semester accompanied by a longer project in the spring.

Her ambition in her career extends to her music, said Jack Klotz, the advisor for Bell Tower Music. 

“Her demos and things she does are fairly ambitious things,” Klotz said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing where her projects with Bell Tower are gonna go.” 

Even at 17, Dahni’s sound was fully formed. On “A Poem About a Butterfly,” angelic harmonies fade in and out as she sweetly delivers lyrics sharp enough to cut. “Let it be known I’m to be feared, I’ll break your heart and won’t shed a tear,” she sings on “In Love With the Wrong Girl.”

When Dahni sits down to write, it’s an act of catharsis. She pens her songs all together, blending the melodies and lyrics as she goes. Whether a track takes 10 minutes or several weeks, the process is a method for Dahni to express herself and connect with her listeners.

“I feel like when I’m writing, it’s like a diary entry almost,” Dahni said. “So it’s very personal to me and like, I’m just putting it out to the world hoping that other people can connect with it and you know, that my music can help them with whatever they’re going through.”

With two potential careers under her belt, Dahni has a bright future ahead of her. She hopes to continue with her music career and go on tour in the coming years.

“I want to be performing,” Dahni said. “I want to be touring in any aspect. And it doesn’t matter how big the venue is, I just want to be out there singing and performing. That’s what I love to do, and that’s what I want to do.”

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