Jonita Gandhi Curated

Indian playback singer

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Jonita Gandhi have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Jonita Gandhi's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming singers. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What do you think of the indie music scene? Would you like to do something in this field?

    I’m happy to see that the independent music scene in India is growing and there’s more attention on talented artistes who exist outside of Bollywood. However, it would be nice to see this growth rise even more and for independent artistes to have opportunities to become household names, just like playback singers in Bollywood, and independent artistes in the West. As for myself, yes, I would love to explore independent music, and I have worked on a few singles in the past, and hoping to do more of it in the future.

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  • How has your journey been from Toronto to Mumbai?

    I've had a great journey from Toronto to Mumbai thus far. I've been fortunate in that I've met some really great people and have had the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals with immense passion for their work. I do get homesick from time to time but I'm very focused on my work. I travel back home as often as I can afford it, to be with family and work with my colleagues in Canada... but I believe I am a citizen of the WORLD and I will continue to go where my voice takes me. Overall, I must say, I can't complain.

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  • You have been a Management student. What led you to realize that you wanted to be a singer?

    Growing up, music has always been my passion and my "first love". However I still wanted to complete my higher education and I was a pretty dedicated student. I was interested in sciences and even wrote my MCAT so that I could apply to medical schools. But, realizing that medicine would allow me too little time for my music, I decided to complete a 5-year double degree program instead. I graduated with a BHSc and an HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Throughout my studies, my passion for singing only strengthened - to the point where I decided that after completing my degrees, I would pursue it full time and see where it takes me - and here I am.

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  • Who are your favourite artistes?

    I find it interesting when different styles of music are fused together effortlessly to create something new and wonderful. Some of my favourite artistes span from East to West and from AR Rahman to Bruno Mars.

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  • As one of the few artistes who perform Bollywood and English songs, do you attribute your success to your experience in singing both?

    Above all else, tenacity has been a key contributor to my journey so far. There’s a lot of trial and error that comes along the way. But one of the things I learned early on is that every artiste has a strength they’re recognised for, or something unique about their sound that makes them stand apart from another. I’m grateful to have had training in Western vocals, which helps me use some of the techniques even while singing Indian songs.

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  • What led you to the Festival of Bharat?

    I thought it was an ideal platform to celebrate India and its essence. Performing to famous Bollywood tracks is always an appealing opportunity as that plays an essential role in defining our culture. And when you think of India, you think of Bollywood.

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  • How is singing career in India different from West?

    In the west, singers could become brands on the strength of the uniqueness of their voices. They don’t have to prove their versatility. Whereas in Bollywood playback singing, one has to be both a 16-year-old singing cheerfully and a seductress in a party number. It’s like acting through your voice. It's better in the West because the singers get better recognition. It helps but even if it opens up doors for you, you have to do good work to cement your place.

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  • You started out as a YouTuber. How did being on the social media platform shape your career?

    When I first started out on YouTube, I was overwhelmed by the response that I received. I didn’t expect the videos to be seen by so many people around the world, and especially, I didn’t expect that they would make several personalities in the Bollywood industry sit up and take notice. I started getting performance queries from fans around the world; they wanted me to perform at their private events because they enjoyed my covers. Nowadays, I think it’s easier to showcase your talent on social media platforms and, sometimes, if they reach the right people, it may even lead to opportunities to work on mainstream projects.

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  • Why did you take up a career in music?

    Singing is an innate part of me, that no matter where I could have or would have gone would always have existed. Since I was a young girl, I knew that I wanted to be a singer. After graduating from university with a solid backup plan, I had to venture into a professional singing career, so that I could prove to myself that I had what it took to turn this into a successful career choice.

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  • What were the initial challenges like?

    When I first started out as a full-time singer, I moved my base from Canada to India in pursuit of opportunities to sing for Bollywood films. I didn’t have contacts in the industry, so I had to figure out how to reach the right people. It has been a challenging, but rewarding process.

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  • What was the biggest turning point in your career?

    There have been several milestones, including going on a tour with Sonu Nigam and getting discovered online by AR Rahman. But, I think, the release of The Breakup Song from the film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil helped my voice and name reach a wider audience.

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  • Who are your biggest competitors in the industry?

    I don’t think I see my contemporaries as competitors. There’s room for everyone to do their thing and we each have our unique strengths and abilities.

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  • Who has been the most influential person in your life?

    My parents are the most influential people in my life. I am the person I am today because of all of the life lessons they have taught me since I was a young child, and for the ways they have helped me learn to deal with my surroundings and handle difficult situations when they arise. They’ve been my biggest source of strength and support throughout my life.

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  • How comfortable are you with fame and popularity?

    I am really grateful that I have people from across the globe showering me with love and appreciation. The attention that comes with a rise in popularity is something that initially used to make me really uncomfortable. I’m not sure how much that has changed.

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  • When you sing in something other than your first language, how do you prepare for it?

    English is my first language. When I learn a song in a new language, I break down the sounds phonetically and write them down in a way that I understand. I try to utilise those around me, who speak the native language, to correct my pronunciation.

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  • Are you inclined to learning instruments too?

    The guitar is something I always wanted to learn. There are a couple of videos on my YouTube channel where I’ve attempted to play [the guitar] along with singing, but that’s a skill I would like to develop.

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  • You are trained in Western vocals, why did you chose to learn Indian classical?

    I strongly believe it’s always good for a singer to keep learning. Whether it’s about continuing to build on your skills or to give something new a try, there’s always room for improvement. I’ve only taken a handful of classes in Hindustani vocals and would like to learn more. Everything we learn as singers helps us develop our own approach to create a sound that is unique.

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  • What is the secret tip that help you in tackling new language?

    There is a sound that exists in each language. I have developed my own way of understanding that. I write all my songs in English. So when I write ‘L’, I know it’s ‘laa’ and ‘l’ for ‘la’. These notes have become a universal way for me to understand.

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  • Nowadays several singers sing one song. You must have experienced it as well. So how do you handle it if your song does not make the cut?

    I sang for Pritam Chakraborty for a few years before one song was finalised in my voice. It’s all a part of the experience. You learn something new every time you record a song. The experience of learning a song on the spot, recording it, dubbing it and singing it as though it has been your song for ages, yes, it’s tough and comes with practice.

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  • Talk about the culture shock. What didn’t you like about India?

    The weather was a big thing. The heat of Mumbai vs the cold of Toronto. It took a while to get used to it. I lived without an AC for the first couple of years as my landlady wasn’t okay with me installing one. However, it was okay because my goal was clear. I knew what I wanted to do and everything else didn’t matter.

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  • How did your journey in India start?

    I stayed as a paying guest for 3 years. As soon as Bollywood started happening, my dad was okay. He told me to stay and make the most of it. My mother would visit often and make sure that I settle down here because for me it was a huge culture shock. I was living in India for the first time after spending 22 years in Canada. Eventually, it felt like home. I began meeting people and got more work. I did a Coke Studio episode before working with Rahman Sir. I continued my YouTube videos and began performing live with Salim-Sulaiman, Rahman sir and his concerts. Nowadays, I am performing with Amit Trivedi. I am lucky that I am getting to work with all the people I wanted to work with.

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  • Did the accent come in the way?

    No, because growing up I would sing in Hindi. I only get confused when I have to sing in English for Bollywood films because certain terms are more understood when you wing them in a local way. So I always make it a point to ask so that it’s relatable to the people listening.

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  • How did you develop a passion for singing?

    I grew up in a family where everyone is fond of music, but no one is professionally a musician. We were in Canada. My dad was passionate about it and he was a musician by hobby during college and work. So thanks to him, music would always be on in our house and he would encourage me to sing. Gradually, I began performing with him in Toronto at all the Indian events. Initially, I was very shy. I would run away the moment my parents asked me to sing, but eventually I fell in love with it. Growing up in Canada, I started picking up on different influences, but we listened to Bollywood music a lot. From childhood I would sing Ashaji and Lataji ke gaane.

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  • How does an aspiring singer stand out among the plethora of content that’s out there these day?

    I think staying as current as possible in terms of trends, but more so using your unique personality to explore creative avenues of expression can help to make a mark.

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  • What makes you keep returning back to the youtube medium and what are the challenges of pursuing different avenues at once?

    I don’t consider it returning back to a medium – it is more that I am continuing to be found on a platform where my work already exists. In terms of pursing singing for Bollywood, Independent music, covers and performing, the only challenge really is time. But other than that, they all co-exist in harmony.

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  • Who is your source of strength?

    My biggest milestone was putting together a live band to tour with and arrange music with. I’ve had the same team since I started performing as a solo act, and I truly believe they are the ones that give me the confidence I need to pull off performances across the globe. As an outsider who didn’t have a pre-established network of musician friends, it took time, rehearsals, and trust to get my live act going. The process really taught me to dive into challenges and have faith in my talent and decisions.

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  • Any message for your fans?

    I am indebted to everyone whoever lends an ear to my music! So conveying my loads of love to all those die-hard fans and followers out there. Besides, I’d ask you all to stay plugged-in, as I have many exciting things coming up in the next fiscal.

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  • Do you follow or incorporate any particular singer’s style in your rendition? Who is your favorite international artiste and what quality attracts you to him/her?

    I’m sure I subconsciously incorporate the style of several singers who I’ve grown up listening to. I try to learn from everyone I listen to. One of my all-time favourites has been the sensational soul/popstar Beyonce Knowles. She’s an amazing all-round performer and a musical trendsetter in her own right.

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  • You don’t have a typical sugary sweet voice but a new age one for sure. Is that a blessing in disguise for you to stand out of the crowd?

    I think finding your own unique sound is extremely crucial for singers. I am delighted, my voice isn’t considered ‘stereotypical’ — precisely that would be the last adjective I’d wish to associate myself with.

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  • Again there is a resurgence of remakes of golden oldies or yesteryear hits. How challenging is it for today’s singers to do justice to such songs, yet deliver a fresh feel with their contemporary twists?

    This is something I deal with regularly, as I’m known for a lot of covers I do for the YouTube, where I too must execute an already existing song with much integrity and yet add my own verve and freshness to its present-day version. It is definitely a challenge, but audiences are open to hearing new interpretations of songs they love. It’s why our YouTube covers get so many views, hits and likes. So, it is definitely possible to strike the right balance between staying true to the original as well as adding your own spin to it.

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  • Why do you think there is a dearth of female composers in the music industry barring a few like Sneha Khanwalkar, Jasleen Kaur Royal or the erstwhile Usha Khanna? Would you ever like to compose a note or two yourself?

    I’ve never considered myself a composer. I’ve written a few songs casually here and there, but those are my private thoughts penned at leisure. They are exclusively mine and not for sale. I can hum a few stanzas for my own gratification and solace in a lone corner but won’t really look to broadcast them over the mike. See I thoroughly enjoy the process of creating, but in my public life, singing will always remain my principal priority. I’m not sure “why” there is a dearth of female tunesmiths in the tinselville, but I can clearly figure out a voluminous emergence of more and more female technicians and behind-the-scene craftswomen, etc. in showbiz currently than ever before, which is indeed a positive sign and a step in forward direction.

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  • Working with hitmaker Pritam Chakraborty also fetched you a winning streak as you bagged the Mirchi music award for Dangal and also got a Filmfare nomination for the ‘Breakup’ song. So it’s a double bonanza for you. What do you have to say to this?

    I feel so honoured to have received such a prestigious award and to have been nominated for so many other accolades this year. I take it as an added impetus to become the best musician I can be. You know it’s such an overwhelming experience to be bestowed with recognition by multiple committees for these songs. My sincere gratitude goes to Pritamda for giving me such lovely compositions, and also to both the teams of Dangal and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil for absorbing me into their folds as a significant part.

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  • Does it irk you when you come across mediocre singers or even actors getting to sing tunefully by virtue of the Auto-tune technology?

    Initially I won’t deny that it did bother me a bit. But now, I’ve matured and realized that there is room for everyone in this industry. Everyone has the right to give a shot at something new, especially if it makes him/her glad. You can’t blame a person for using technology to do a certain patchwork. And today, audiences are more aware than ever. If you need to rely on Auto-tune to sing, the astute listeners would anyways come to detect it, and that may not always fare well for you in the long run.

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  • You share a wonderful rapport with the musical genius A.R. Rahman and have not only lent your vocals to his film-tunes but also collaborated on an album with him called Raunaq and even crooned at his concerts. How has your entire tryst been with the ‘Mozart of Madras’?

    I really mean it when I say that working with Rahman sir has been a dream come true so far and I feel so blessed for every single opportunity I got to record and perform with him. There always used to be something new to learn from him and I am humbled by the fact that he taught, directed and threw challenges at me to live up to. You won’t believe how much I have learnt about myself and grown as a singer because of his guidance and the tenacity with which he has goaded me beyond my self-defined limits. It’s been a total revelation or me!

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  • Tell us about your first break in Bollywood and how it all happened.?

    A friend of mine was working at Vishal-Shekhar’s studio as an engineer and had taken me to visit his workstation. He introduced me to Vishal Dadlani sir, who at the time was scoring notes for the title-track of Shah Rukh Khan-Deepika Padukone starrer blockbuster, Chennai Express. After listening to some of my music he asked me if I would want to try out a few lines on the track. I went in to record with zero expectations and thought nothing of it after I left, beyond being simply obliged for the surprising scope that fell in my lap to have had him hear my voice. It wasn’t until weeks later that I found out my vocals being retained intact in that number. I was over the moon and you know what — I guess, am fortunate enough to suddenly notice things turning in my favour and falling into place without any hiccups. I was quite naturally welcomed within the industry and never ever made to feel like an outsider.

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  • You tasted fame by posting your music videos of super hit covers on the YouTube that went viral. How significant do you think is grabbing this digital space in today’s times to make yourself heard across the board?

    The rise of YouTube and social media as digital platforms for artistes to exhibit their work has increased substantially since I had first begun uploading videos back in 2011. I think it’s a perfect window for artistes to adjudge their pluses and minuses alike. Yet at the same time it brings them a golden opportunity to be heard and seen by audiences, significant musical personalities, music producing companies and record labels across the world.

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  • How important was your training in both western and Hindustani classical music given the fact that it’s a rare combo to spot in an artiste’s CV?

    Though I manage to deliver the techniques required in semi-classical songs that I perform, my training in Hindustani classical music has been limited thus far. This is something I would really like to work upon. I’m grateful that I have learnt a bit of both styles though, and I hope I can learn a lot more soon. I think the more styles you know, the more fun you can have taking on new characters in the studio as a playback singer.

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  • Was Bollywood naturally your next step towards progression in terms of music? Didn’t you think of trying your luck on international platforms?

    Well, I have always had this aim to take my penchant to an international level, since I grew up in a place where Bollywood wasn’t the be-all and end-all when it came to entertainment. I remember waiting to be 16 so that I could be old enough to audition for certain English musicals and also participate at the Canadian singing competitions. That being said, it was solely the Indian music that lent me an identity while in Canada. Because I had the most prospects to showcase my talent and culture when I sang Hindi and Punjabi songs, and so that became the primary focus as far as professional singing went.

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  • Your respected father — Deepak Gandhi — too is a musician by hobby and was the first person to unearth your talent. How did he encourage and introduce you to music?

    My dad has been leading a music band in Toronto since I was a kid. When he first realized that I had a knack for singing, he cheered me on to learn and practise the craft. I was very shy as a child and he made all the efforts to trigger that spark in me and help me discover my true calling which lies in music. Thanks to his push and belief in me and the opportunities that he provided along my path by allowing me to perform with his band, that today I am where I am. I stand at a certain height now to keep challenging myself by adopting new techniques and grasping the essential ropes of the musical vocation.

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  • Who has been your greatest guide, support and source of inspiration in music?

    I owe it to many people who have along the way shared their experiences with me, provided that desirable relevant guidance and have also continued to support me on this ever-changing journey. I’d like to first and foremost refer to my parents for incessantly motivating and encouraging me through thick and thin. Musically, I am inspired by those who push boundaries and exude the self-sufficiency required to manifest their dreams into reality.

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  • You could have easily chosen a career in corporate business or health science as your academic background highlights the same. Instead you chose music. Was it all about your passion’s call?

    Deep down inside, singing was always my happy-haven, but I wanted to have a strong academic backing before attempting to pursue a career in music. Getting a good education as a solid backup was something my parents had instilled in me. So once I completed my studies, I was confident of giving the vocalist’s discipline a fair chance as a full-time preoccupation, knowing well that I have a stable foundation to fall back on, lest my career flunks to take off properly. So here I stand now feeling absolutely content and thankful to having followed my gut in chasing my passion for music. I’m also grateful that I had the much-needed support-system to succeed on this score.

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  • Seems like language is never a barrier for you and you have sung in several regional lingos. How do you manage this?

    I use phonetics to learn the lyrics of languages am unfamiliar with. This is a very scientific approach for me. I rewrite the words based on how they sound to me, and over time, I have developed a sort of a legend of my own that I can apply to each and every vernacular I chanced upon to croon in. It’s really important to me to get the diction right. So I take aid of those immediately around me who natively speak the language of the song to help me correct my pronunciation while I’m picking up the tongue.

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  • How has been your musical grooming in Canada? Would you miss your desi sangeet on a foreign land till you decided to pack bags and shift base?

    Performing at events in Canada was quite a different experience for me than it has ever been here in India. But overall, it propped me up well to prepare for the various types of events I dabbled in while visiting back home. In Canada, most events tend to be for an audience of amalgamated Indian cultures, so the energies and expectations span over a wide range.

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  • You have an exotic touch to your profile having hailed from Canada. Did that give you an extra fillip during your foray in Bollywood as a strong command on world music scene is considered an added bonus today?

    I firmly believe, versatility is a real valuable trait for any singer. And that quality develops from a keen indulgence in eclectic genres of music. Growing up in Canada, I was exposed to both western and Indian music equally. So I have spontaneously developed an ability to build up my skills in two distinct spheres of music — first by training in western classical singing, second by self-practice with Indian songs of various kinds. Thus having the aptitude to blend western vocal techniques with the nuances of Indiangayaki was something that has helped me begin the process of shaping a unique sound of my own over a period of time.

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  • The country’s independent scene is as talented as those in Bollywood, but don’t seem to get the same recognition, do you think that gap will ever be bridged?

    When I first came I did a collaboration with [electronica/rap act] ViceVersa ”“ and I was so happy to do it because then my eyes opened to this whole other scene. Everybody is so multi-faceted and to bridge that gap is not necessary. I feel you can do things in parallel ”“ especially in India, the audience is so vast and there is so much variety and diversity ”“ you’re not going to appeal to everyone with every song you do. There are people who like me for my unplugged stuff and there are people who will still talk about that song I did with P-Man called “Lose Control” where I’m signing like really low and full English. I just want to explore, It’s exciting now in our atmosphere, in our music scene.

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  • Of late Bollywood music seems to sound quite repetitive and stagnant, what do you have to say about that?

    I think it is stagnant now, over the last few years that I’ve been here it hasn’t been. At least for me because I was still learning the ropes ”“ luckily I’ve worked with a lot of different people and I’ve sung a lot of different types of songs and that’s always been my goal. Plus I’m touring with a lot of different artists and I’m learning so much being in different bands ”“ but I feel now in the last year or two it has become quite stagnant because it’s all been remixes, right? Which is hilarious because I started out as a cover artist.

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  • Coming from Canada and moving to India ”“ have you faced any obstacles over the years?

    Of course it’s always tough ”“ even now there are struggles and ups and downs. But I feel I’ve been really positive and really focused ”“ so I’ve never had an extreme low, touch wood. I’m sure I might because it happens to everybody but it’s been a big roller coaster ride I would say.

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