Home » Exclusive: Jonita Gandhi to lift the jam with charts like Deva Deva and more!

Exclusive: Jonita Gandhi to lift the jam with charts like Deva Deva and more!

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Exclusive: Jonita Gandhi to lift the jam with charts like Deva Deva and more!

Gandhi grew up listening to soulful music because her brother and father played music as a hobby. She is a versatile performer who has made a name for herself singing in various languages ​​including Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, Malayalam and Kannada. The breakup song from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, the title track from Chennai Express and recently Deva Deva from Brahmastra are some of her Hindi songs. These songs further boosted her popularity. She started covering songs at a young age including popular ones like Pani Da Rang, Tum Hi Ho and Yeh Honsla to mention a few. She has since become a YouTube sensation. The singer talks about playing with talented artists like Salim Sulaiman, Sonu Nigam and Amit Trivedi, both in recording studios and on tour. Collaborating as a playback singer with the likes of AR Rahman and Pritam was nothing but a dream come true for her. When she was nine months old, her family moved to Canada. Although she was surrounded by a lot of Bollywood music during her growing up years, the singer was also influenced by ABBA, Beyonce and Lauren Hill. In a frank conversation, Ionita discusses her big break with the title song of Rohit Shetty’s Chennai Express, her versatility in her work and how her Filmfare Award nomination was a defining moment in her career. excerpts:

To what extent were you exposed to Indian music growing up?

Growing up, Bollywood music was always playing in my home. I sang and danced to the songs my parents played, from the golden oldies to the latest Bollywood releases. My father is also a hobby musician and his band often rehearsed at our place. They played Bollywood songs at local events and that’s how I started playing when I was a kid.

How did your family help shape your musical talent?

My family loves music. My dad played guitar in his college band and now plays keyboards too. My brother is also a percussionist. They both play local South Asian events around our hometown in Canada.

Which singers did you especially listen to?

Growing up, I listened to many different singers, not only from Bollywood but also from the West. As for Bollywood, I probably learned the most from listening to Lataji (Mangeshkar), Ashaji (Bhosle), Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal and Sunidhi Chauhan.

Punjabi, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam – your versatility shows well in your career graph. How did you manage to get the pronunciation right in all these languages?

I try to be careful about phrasing and phonetics when I sing in different languages. I understand that a slight change in pronunciation can completely change the meaning of a word. So I rely on the native speakers around me in the studio to help me get it right before I hit the mic. I do something like a legend on my notes to help me remember the pronunciation and meaning as I write.

Chennai Express was your big break in Bollywood. How did you come across this?

The night I recorded this song was the first time I met Vishal Dadlani. He happened to be working on the song when I bumped into him at the studio while visiting my friend Abhishek Ghatak, who was working there at the time. When he asked me if I wanted to try the song, my fight or flight instinct kicked in to give it a try. I went out with no expectations, but when I found out that my voice was saved in the song, I was extremely excited.

How did your journey with AR Rahman begin and how did he mentor you?

Sir Rahman found one of my videos on YouTube and shared it on Twitter, which started the whole thing. Little did I know then that it would lead to a relationship that would last for years. Not long after, I got a call to record at Rahman Sir’s studio in Chennai. I had such indescribable experiences in the studio and behind the mic with him. He asked me to try things I didn’t know I could do, but somehow he knew I could. I feel grateful that he trusts me not only to record songs, but also to perform my music live on stage. I remember how nervous I was to go on tour with him the first time, as I was the only singer for the North American Intimate Tour. Working with him continues to be such a rewarding experience.

You are a true YouTube sensation. Have you posted your job on the platform with an eye on getting a job in Bollywood?

When I first started on YouTube, I didn’t understand the power of the platform. I had no idea it would lead me to the career of my dreams. I first started sharing videos with my friends and then realized that people around the world started responding to them. When we started getting inquiries for shows and recognition from the best in the industry, that’s when it dawned on me that there was a bigger picture at hand.

How different do you think the independent music scene is compared to singing playback for movies?

Both can be quite different. Playback singing is more like a job for hire; singers are usually called upon to perform a pre-planned song, where many people from different departments are part of the process. In my opinion, the independent music scene in general gives more room for artists to make a greater connection with listeners on a personal level. The process of releasing music in the two spaces is also very different, involving everything from strategy to budgets.

Did you act on stage while studying?

During my years at university, I regularly participated in events. It was like a part-time job for me. While most students earned money through retail work and other means, concerts were my main source of income. It’s been a great way for me to balance work and fun! I would go home from my campus on weekends to present and go back to school on weekdays.

Have you ever had a funny or awkward experience with a fan?

I remember once I met a fan who knew me specifically because of my covers on YouTube. He was so blown away by the fact that I was standing in real life, and he innocently said, “I can’t believe you’re off YouTube!” That’s a memory I think will stay with me for a long time, lol.

If you had to pick a song from your career that accelerated your musical journey in the industry, which one would you pick?

I think The Breakup Song was the song that helped people recognize my name and voice in the earlier years. However, Chellamma from the Tamil film Doctor (2021) grew faster than any song I had sung before. I could see the impact on social media.

What do you think of your latest hit, Deva Deva?

I love the song. It was beautifully portrayed on screen in the film. I love how the song has an anthemic feel to it, especially the chorus that makes people want to sing along. It is always an honor to work with Arijit Singh, Amitabh Bhattacharya and the Pritam Da team.

You have been nominated for a Filmfare Award in the past for Laila Majnu’s The Breakup Song and Ahista…

Being nominated for a Filmfare Award is like reaching a milestone in your career. It’s been so great to be nominated a few times in the past, alongside singers I looked up to before I even started singing. It’s surreal and means so much to be recognized among such people who I respect and admire so much.

So what’s next?

I look forward to all that is yet to come in the coming year. I’m exploring music with some personal projects and recording for a film at the same time. Be sure to follow my social media channels to learn more as I announce details.

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