Jonita Gandhi became an Internet sensation for her electric voice and this fame has followed her to Bollywood as well. The Indo-Canadian singer has worked with affluent music directors like A. R. Rahman and Vishal-Shekhar and wooed everyone with her versatile voice.

From singing a fast track like ‘Sau Tarah Ke’ in Dishoom to the soulful ‘Saajan Aayo Re’ in OK Jannu, Jonita not only indulges in diverse genres, but also in various languages, having sung in Tamil and Bengali as well. An extremely passionate singer, Jonita talks about her musical background, preferred genres of music, working with A. R. Rahman and more.

Singer Jonita Gandhi

Singer Jonita Gandhi

Tell us about your first encounter with music and your training in the field?

I was trained in western classical music while growing up in Canada. I tried to learn a little bit of Hindustani classical music, but there weren’t that many teachers there. That is why I learnt about Hindustani music by listening to songs and copying and picking up nuances of music by listening to some great musicians.

How did your debut in Bollywood happen?

My first song was in Chennai Express in 2013, by then I had come to India. During that time, I was trying to build my network and I had already done cover videos on YouTube. So, I guess, some people already knew who I was and this worked in my favor because when I went to the studios, I could show them some of my work. So in 2103 I ended up meeting Vishal Dadlani on the day that he was working on the song for Chennai Express. I think I was at the right place at the right time because he asked if I would like to try it and I tried it and it worked out. That is how I got my breakthrough in Bollywood.

I have grown up singing songs from all genres because I wanted to be versatile

You started your career with A. R. Rahman and worked with him yet again for OK Jaanu, what have been the learnings of working with a maestro like him?

I have worked mostly with A. R. Rahman compared to all other composers. I love that he really gets to know your voice. He encourages singers to extend their boundaries and try different things and experiment with their voice. I learnt things that I didn’t know I could do with my voice just by working with him. The biggest learning for me was to know that I could push my voice.

Coming to your song Saajan Aayo Re, how was your approach towards it?

Saajan Aayo Re is a remake of a Tamil song and I had already sung that song live at A. R. Rahman’s concert, so I knew the melody. I also had an idea about how the song would be placed in the film as well, from seeing the Tamil version. I wasn’t really given a brief because there is not much happening in terms of lyrics, but I wanted to bring about the soulful vibe in Saajan Aayo Re.

Since the song is a classical based song, it became quite challenging.  The biggest challenge for me was delivering the song authentically. Since I am not fully trained in Indian classical I did not want to come across as unprepared. Therefore, I just rehearsed the song as much as I could and really worked on it because I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially Rahman Sir.

2016 has been a great year for you with some diverse songs be it the ‘The Breakup song’ or ‘Pink anthem’, but what is the genre you are most comfortable with?

I have grown up singing songs from all genres because I wanted to be versatile. But I think my preferred genre is still going to be soulful songs. Also, most of the covers that I have sung have also been in that zone so I am more comfortable with that and I would want to experiment more in that genre.

What draws you to a song – is it the emotion, the music director or is there any other factor that draws you? 

I think it could be anything that draws me to a song. Sometimes it is the co-singer, at other times it is the composer or the situation. When you watch a film and hear a song portrayed on a certain situation it is that situation that draws you back to listen to it later.

I learnt things that I didn’t know I could do with my voice just by working with A.R.Rahman

What is next on the cards for you, which are the projects you are working on?

I have done a Tamil track that is coming up soon. Also, I am recording some more tracks, but I can’t reveal much at the moment. Besides that I am working on my YouTube channel and hoping to put up some new videos soon.

What is the one thing that you would advice budding singers to always remember?

I would say, try to find your own sound and don’t try to copy people because everyone has their own journey. You should stick to what feels comfortable to you and stick to your own voice because that is what is going to make you shine at the end of the day.