What sets Jonita Gandhi apart is her unique blend and her approach to western classical music
What made you opt for a career in singing? What got you into music? Can you tell us about your journey? I have always been interested in music because my dad is a musician by hobby. I grew up in a house where music has been an essential part. My dad used to practice the keyboard, he also played the guitar a little bit. I had music playing around me always. It is something that I enjoyed all the time, while I was studying during weekends or while travelling. We would have family jam sessions, my brother would also play the tabla, everyone was interested in music so growing up I had that influence. It was only in the high school that I began to take music seriously. I began to do gigs and started to perform in plays. It became a part-time job for me. It slowly became a part of who I was. In school and in university, all my extracurricular activities were always music related. Eventually I started making videos.
How do you describe the music that you usually create? Which artists are you inspired by? When you were growing up what was your inspiration to look forwards towards singing?
I have grown up in Toronto, we were exposed to people from different places from the world. When I was in school, I was influenced to what my friends were listening as well and obviously the music that was playing at home and on the radio. There was a really wide range of different genres. I grew up singing Indian music along with a whole lot of other languages and styles as well. I think everything I was exposed to has influenced my sound. So, now, when I make music, when I perform music, I think it’s an amalgamation of lots of different styles that I have been exposed to. I think it was a blessing for me to be exposed to such a wide variety of culture and their music growing up in Toronto and all of it is in my music today.
What kind of a singer do you consider yourself and what sets you apart from other singers going by the kind of background that you have come from?
My background is what makes me unique, not many singers in Bollywood have grown up in the west and it’s ironic that growing up in Toronto being away from India I had been deeply rooted to the music in India and Indian culture. I knew and a lot of Lata didi and Rafi sahib songs than many people I came across while practicing here in India. When people grow up here, they are mostly fond of the outside songs and Indians abroad wish to stay connected to the roots as much as possible. The songs playing in my house have always been old Bollywood Indian songs. I know a lot of Indian songs but have a western approach because I have learned western classical music. According to me, what sets me apart is the unique blend that I have in different music. My USP is my versatility and the fact that I sing a lot of different styles.
What has been your best live performance till now and what are the challenges that you face while doing live performances? What do you prefer – singing in a studio or live shows?
Singing in a studio and performing live shows is a completely different thing. In the studio you have the option of recording again if you do a mistake, you also allow yourself to take risks and to take chances. On live shows, you have no option of doing that. You have one shot to perform the song, and that is what makes the experience livelier. You have sudden requests as well made by the audience and you have to incorporate that in your song. You feel a lot of energy from the crowd you are performing for, which makes live performances challenging as well as exhilarating than studio performances. I like to keep a balance of both; there is a learning opportunity in both. My best performance so far is when I performed with A R Rahman live, because the kind of production level and quality which I get on his shows, as they are the biggest shows in terms of size and grandeur, and I am able to explore different aspects of performance when I performed for A R Rahman. The music was so soulful that my best came out on that stage.
What’s your favourite song that you love to perform on live shows?
It’s a hard question to answer, Lag Ja Gale is one song that I always love to perform. I have also sung a version of that song for Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3. I feel very lucky that I got selected to sing that version of song. I feel that no matter whatever the occasion is, I will always love singing this song. It has become a part of my identity as I have also sung the song.
Who is your dream artist to collaborate with?
In Bollywood, Ajay Atul tops the list. I have not worked with them yet. They have done some amazing work and I love their music and I really would love to collaborate with them. Internationally, I want to collaborate with Jacob Collier, he’s just out of the world for me. There are a lot of people I want to collaborate with, the list goes on.
You have a lot of cover songs on YouTube, how do you think internet has affected music business? What’s the most challenging part of being a social media star?
Social media is a tough thing, because it’s very demanding, but it’s also a great opportunity. For me specifically, I was born of the internet. Most of my success can be attributed to the fact that I did covers very early in my career and that served as a demo for me. People in the industry came to know about me for my cover versions initially which worked for me. I recognise, being a social media content creater as a strength which helps us to connect us to our audience without any medium in between. It’s a very direct connection that an artist can make with the audience which gives us a lot of power because it lets us expose what we want specifically to the audience. I am very much interested in dance and comedy and my personality in general I get to convey through social media. The only challenging part I find on social media is staying relevant, because there is so much of content on social media.
How do you intend to make an impact in the music industry with your voice though your upcoming projects?
My goal is to sing in all the different styles that I can in all the different languages that I can. Music has no language; I have seen people who listen to songs without understanding the language. My goal is to sing songs one genre at a time. Until now most of my work was singing songs which were someone else’s creation, I have also started writing my own songs now. I am also trying to write my own music as well. I am trying to collaborate with independent musicians. Bollywood has always been the biggest transformation for me in my career but I am trying to explore more independent music now.
Singing in showers is something which everyone does, do you possess this trait? Whose songs do you usually sing while at it?
Yes I do sing in the showers (laughs). I sing a lot of songs in showers, there is no specific song. Whatever song is on my mind, whatever I am working on, comes out. I sing everywhere, the shower, the kitchen, the hall, the garden – everywhere I am, there is always something in my head and I am humming. There is a complete entertainment for everyone around.
What makes you smile and what scares you the most?
Losing my motivation is what scares me the most. I have been in India for last seven years now, and, when I first came I was exploring and I was extremely hungry as well as motivated. I love it that way. I never want to be in a stage where I lose motivation. Motivation and hunger is always necessary to bring the best out of us. So far I have not lost motivation so I should be okay. The first thing that makes me smile is the animal
accounts that I follow on Instagram. The things that make me smile the most are little puppies. I share a lot of stuff with puppies because it brings a lot of joy to people and if they happen to follow me then they can also smile.
What’s the weirdest thing that a fan has ever done for you?
There are a lot of weird things (haha). I sometimes get messages from people on social media saying how they want to worship my feet because they find them attractive.
Most energetic and saddest song ever you have ever sung?
My most energetic song that I have ever sung has to be Rajwadi Odhni from Kalank. The video of the song was shot earlier and I was able to see her expressions and the entire song which helped me energise and sing the song. Usually it’s the opposite; the song is sung prior to the shooting of the video. If I have to talk about a sad song, it is the one song that I sung in for Jab Harry Met Sejal named Yaadon Mein.
What does your average day look like?
I don’t have a regular day. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit us, every day I was used to running around. Either I would be on a flight, for a gig or a recording session or a shoot or a meeting. Now, since I am at home mostly that I am not stepping out, I am having meetings on social media. I stay alone so I have a lot of house work to do myself. I have a lot of music always. Every day I record at least one song at my home studio and that’s where I spend most of my time.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow your footsteps?
Get inspired by hard work but don’t get too attached to someone’s journey because everyone’s journey is different. Just keep working hard and be yourself.