The ever-charming Jonita Gandhi takes a plunge into acting with a new series!
From Canada to India - Brampton to Mumbai - Jonita Gandhi has come a long way. The 31-year-old singer started her career with Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express and since has crooned in eight regional Indian languages. She has worked with some of the top music composers in the country- AR Rahman to Meet Bros to name a few. The singer was recently in Canada when we caught up with her about her music, giving acting a shot, and social media.
Q:Looking at how it started to where you are now, how does it feel when you go on a nostalgic route?
A: It can be overwhelming! Although I know I have a lot further to go, it’s humbling to revisit the memories of the experiences I’ve had to get here. Whenever I come home to visit, visiting places I used to perform at regularly often makes me think of what life used to be like and what life could have possibly been if I hadn’t pursued music in India. I am so grateful and consider myself very lucky to be living my dreams.
Q: Please tell us your experience working with some of the top composers in India. Who is your favourite?
A: I can’t pick any one favourite because it’s a unique experience to work with each one. They all have their own workflow and each of their studios has its own vibe. I have learned something different about myself and about my singing while working with different music directors and I really appreciate that opportunity because it helps me to grow as an artist.
Q: Coming from Canada, how did you think of heading to Bollywood?
A: Just as I was graduating from university, I received a call that Sonu Nigam was looking for a female singer to join the band for his North American tour and my name was recommended. It all happened so quickly and soon I was touring North America with Sonu Nigam and his band. That experience made me think seriously about giving a professional career as a singer a shot. With two degrees in hand and a solid backup plan to fall back on, I thought why not. Thankfully, I toured with Sonuji for the first few years while I was in India and simultaneously worked on making a name for myself.
Q:Tell us about the things you have learnt from AR Rahman?
A: Working with Rahman sir on stage and in the studio has taught me so much about myself as a singer, and about my voice. Not only do I grow musically from interactions with Rahman sir, but also on a spiritual level. I’ve learned how to be less rigid about the rules when it comes to conforming to the genre of the song when delivering vocals in the studio. I get to experiment with different styles of singing within the same song, which I never thought was something I should do. I’ve learned that I could sing things that I didn’t think I could sing. I’ve been put on the spot many times and found out that I’m able to do things I didn’t know I could do.
Q:Who do you aspire to work with when it comes to composers? Your dream collaboration.
A: There are so many people I would love to collaborate with, from music composers to singer-songwriters. It would be a dream come true to collaborate with artists like Jacob Collier, Timbaland, Charlie Puth, Billie Eilish, Bruno Mars, etc… they’re all so talented and the list really goes on and on!!!
Q: Of all the songs you have crooned, which is your favourite? A: Kahaan Hoon Main. It was my first solo song in Bollywood and the process of recording that song taught me so much.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced when you started in Bollywood?
A: Most people would hear me speak before they heard me sing and assume that I couldn’t pronounce lyrics correctly because of my Canadian accent. This was a barrier for me at first.
Q: You have sung in different languages, do you find it hard to switch from one to another?
A: Since I don’t speak any of the regional languages I sing in, I approach them all phonetically. Over time, of course, some words become familiar so it does get easier, but I’ve also developed a sort of legend that I use to help me know how to pronounce the sounds correctly when I’m learning new lyrics in any language.
Q: Who is your inspiration when it comes to music?
A: I draw inspiration from hard work and talent, so the answer changes almost daily as I hear new music and discover new talent. There are so many artists who inspire me, especially the ones who push boundaries and are versatile in their craft.
Q: Tell us a little about your music teachers who have guided you throughout your life?
A: Some of my first teachers were Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, without them knowing of course! Like most singers, I first started learning songs by listening to them. I’ve taken western classical vocal classes with the Ontario Conservatory of music, and again in University, but I never really formally trained in Indian classical vocals or had the guidance of a teacher along the way. I’ve learned something new from every artist and composer I’ve worked with along the way. That being said, I do consider Salim Merchant and AR Rahman to be mentors who have guided me through much of my musical career.
Q: People have multiple times commented on social media that you should start acting, have you thought about it?
A: When I was a kid, I used to think I was going to be an actress, before I realized that being a singer was a thing I could do. (Haha). Given that my singing career is so jam-packed, although I’ve considered the idea many times, I never took a step in that direction until an opportunity came my way. I’ve recently shot for an English-language film by a Tamil production house that’s scheduled to release on Netflix later this year. It was a very different experience, and an opportunity to learn something new.
Q: How important is social media for artists these days?
A: Social media is such a great tool for artists to reach audiences around the world. Building relationships with audiences has become a key strategy for artists not just for music consumption but also for brand collaborations, sponsorships, and endorsements which are also areas of an artist’s career that add value to their profiling. It’s a great way to share new music releases and other work as well.