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A song to remember - Musically eloquent Jonita Gandhi on her multicultural influences & dream goals

Read on as this spunky singer shares her magical musical journey, dreams and aspirations with SHE. We wish our chellama many more accolades to come and a wonderful year ahead.

Tell us the meaning of your beautiful name.

My name means “unique”. That’s what my dad tells me, and then I always clarify does it mean ‘unique’ or is it unique? And then he says “it is unique” to confuse me, (laughs)…. but if you google it, my name means “God is gracious”.

When did you realize your passion for singing?

Deep down inside, I’ve known since I was a child that singing was going to be a big part of my identity. I remember watching singing reality shows while I was growing up and envisioning myself performing on big stages. Rather than getting a part time job at a retailer or office like my friends, I was performing at events across the country, which wasn’t something a regular teenager did in Canada. Learning new techniques and honing my skills wasn’t something anyone ever had to force me to do, and I think that was a key indicator that the passion was always there.

Your journey in the field of music has been very exciting. As the desi girl from Canada to living your dream in India and touring across the world, how have these global experiences influenced your art?

Growing up in Canada surrounded by both western and Indian music is something I think played a big role in helping me develop my unique sound. I always like blending techniques from my various musical influences. Moving to India and being immersed in the music scene here definitely influenced my perspective on my art form and every work experience gave me an opportunity to learn and take something away to help me become a better artist. I’m so glad, and fortunate, that I’m able to tour the world performing and doing what I love.

Tell us about your experience touring with AR Rahman Sir?

There are moments when I stand on stage with Rahman Sir and the band and find myself in shock wondering what I am doing amongst such talented and legendary people. It’s surreal most of the time. Performing with Rahman Sir is a larger than life experience. His shows are grand, in terms of production value and even the audiences we perform for. I feel truly blessed to have been recognized by Rahman Sir and to be part of his touring show. He’s such an inspiration and working with him has taught me a lot about myself and brought out things in my singing I didn’t even know I could do.

Share few fond memories of your big song debut in Chennai Express.

Recording for Chennai Express happened so out of the blue, I didn’t know how to react when I found out my voice was being kept in the final track. I was visiting my friend Abhishek Gathak who worked at Vishal-Shekhar’s studio at the time and ran into Vishal Dadlani. He was working on the track and asked me if I wanted to give it a shot. I was scared out of my mind but gave it a shot anyway, with no expectations since this was a completely new experience for me. Fast forward to attending my first audio launch where I was standing on stage beside Shahrukh Khan telling him that I’m a fangirl who grew up watching his films with my family in Toronto. Talk about unbelievable!

Your recent song “Chellamma” has been a trending hit. How was the experience working & singing along with the super talented Anirudh?

Anirudh is a great friend and I really enjoy working with him! I was in Toronto with my family during lockdown when I got the call for Chellamma, but Anirudh was such a great support while working on the recording remotely. He’s really specific about what he wants and that’s something I appreciate. We had only a couple days to get the song and video done before it needed to be delivered to the label for release. I remember when he suggested I dress up in a traditional saree, I thought he was joking at first, but then he explained the full concept and I loved it! It was such a great idea, and it’s nice to see everyone dress up like us and create their own videos.

You are pretty active on the Instagram community, how do you think social media has helped you connect with fame and fans’ love?

Social media is like a little outlet for me to get to show my followers more of my personality and who I am than what they hear of me in my music and see of me in music videos, and also to get my music heard by people around the world who I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach. My journey to Bollywood began on YouTube and I never thought that my voice would be heard by industry stalwarts in India while I was in Toronto. I’ve never looked at social media as connecting with fame, but more so as making relationships with people who connect to me and love my music.

What genre of songs do you personally like to listen to and sing?

I like to explore new music regardless of genre, but some of my favourites to sing are RnB, Pop and semi-classical Indian music. I like listening to dancehall.

Your favourite singers/idols?

This is a really tough question! There are a tonne of artists out there and I want to be able to learn from all of them, so I try to keep my eyes and ears open all the time. AR Rahman, Arijit Singh, Asha Bhonsle amongst others in the Indian industry, but if I was to look outside of India, I’ve grown up admiring Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Jessie J and really take inspiration from their music. More recently, I’ve loved Charlie Puth, Bruno Mars, Billie Eilish, H.E.R., Tori Kelly, I could keep going.

What extra efforts do you take to improvise on yourself?

I try to listen to as many new artists as possible because I feel that’s the best way to keep myself fresh. I embrace new challenges and try to make sure that I’m consciously aware of not making my routine too mundane. I’m constantly trying new languages, trying new genres, travelling and always seeking new forms of inspiration.

The routine you follow before recording or going on stage?

When it comes to recordings, it really depends on the song I’ll be singing because sometimes I actually need my voice not to be warmed up because of the key or other factors. Generally speaking I try to make sure I’m well hydrated and in a good mood to be able to perform well on stage or in studio. I really like having black coffee before I perform, so that’s a habit that I’ve formed.

Your take on nepotism?

It exists in some aspects of the industry but I try my best to focus on my talent and let things happen the way they’re meant to.

You have had the opportunity of working with some of the best music directors and singers! Tell us about your favourite memories with few of them.

My answer would go on forever if I started to name them all! There’s been something to learn from each music director and artist as they all bring something unique to the table. Every time I work with a new music director, I try to take away something that can help me improve as an artist.

Everyone has failed choices in their lives? What are your takeaways from that?

When I first came to India to see if pursuing a career as a professional singer was something I could do, I gave myself a timeline. But before I came, I made sure I had a solid education to fall back on in case it didn’t. Once I graduated from University, I had the choice to continue working, but I knew if I didn’t give singing a fair shot, I would regret it later. I strongly believe it’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all. At least while trying we learn something along the way.

What do your hobbies include?

Netflix, hanging with friends, and I have a newfound love for painting with watercolours!

Did the lockdown help you in re-kindling new hobbies or memories?

I spent a few months at home with my family during lockdown and that was the most precious things I could have asked for! My brother and I revisited a lot of our childhood while cleaning up storage at home and also while spending time together. From board games, to visiting our old schools, to looking through our yearbooks and school notes, it was a great walk down memory lane while creating new memories.

Your dream team to work with would be?

Bruno Mars, Charlie Puth, myself and Jacob Collier… that’d be crazy!!!

What does your daily routine look like? How you like to spend your day usually?

No two days in my life look exactly the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way! As much as I would love to balance my days with work, fun and relaxation, I don’t think it would be as exciting as it is.

Tell us a bit about your wardrobe preferences and shopping habits?

Shopping happens when it happens (laughs). I’m not the “lets hang out in the mall” kind of person, so usually I shop while travelling or when I really need something. These days, some of my favourite wardrobe items are pieces brought to me by stylists for shoots or events that I end up buying (laughs again). I like to dress comfortably but in a way that lets me show a bit of my personality.

What would you like to share with young girls who look up to you for inspiration, for having reached where you are right now?

Be yourself and be your biggest cheerleader! Get inspired by hard work and commitment but remember that everyone’s journey is unique. Carve your own path to success that represents you!

Love, Team She


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