Toronto's Nightingale - Jonitha Gandhi
Jonita Gandhi, known to the Indo-Canadian community as Toronto's Nightingale, discovered that music was the language of her soul at a very young age. Born in New Delhi, India, she moved to Toronto as an infant and grew up with strong influences of Canadian culture. “I am extremely proud of my Indian heritage. Although I’ve grown up in Canada, I’ve maintained a strong connection with my roots,” mentions Jonita.
It was her father, a professional musician himself, who recognized her rhythm and pitch. In her early years, she was known amongst her peers for her talent as a dancer with recognizable skills in Bollywood and Hip Hop styles. But, it wasn't only movement that drew Jonita's heart close to dance; it was her profuse love for music. Jonita says, “I’ve been brought up in a music-loving family. My love for music comes mostly from my dad who has been my inspiration and motivation to keep practising and working on my skills. He set up a studio in our home where I could practise recording and try new things. This helped me a lot since I had the chance to work on music in my spare time when I wasn’t studying or at university.”
While growing up listening to and learning a variety of musical styles, Jonita has become a true experimentalist in her vocal art. She enjoys opportunities to try new styles and sing in different languages. Jonita began singing on stage at the tender age of 4, and has managed to pursue a promising musical career while maintaining academic excellence and completing her BHSc and HBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. Her journey to success as a singer began in her university years by winning first place in various competitions including NATS at York University, in 2011, Asian Idol at University of Western Ontario, Sonu Nigam's contest for English-language tribute to Michael Jackson, and winning the competition to open for Kailash Kher’s concert in Toronto.
Jonita’s versatility as a singer spans her strongly across various genres including: Sufi, Bollywood, Western Classical, RnB, Pop and Soft Rock just to name a few. She has sung not only in Hindi and English, but also in Punjabi, Bengali, Tamil, German, Italian, and French for live and recorded performances. She has been trained by the Conservatory of Music in Western Classical singing, and now, she is studying Indian Classical music during her travels to India.
“It is an incredible feeling to get love and encouragement from people across the world. I feel fortunate that my music can connect me to so many people from various places, backgrounds and stories. To perform for them and to get feedback from them is the best reward. I can't explain what it feels like when I hear that my music has made a difference in someone's life,” says Jonita.
Jonita’s international fan following increased through her youtube videos which also helped her gain recognition from prominent Bollywood personalities including Amitabh Bachchan, AR Rahman, Ayushmann Khurana and Salim Sulaiman. Her YouTube works with "Toronto’s Gunsmith & Mohit" and Indian band "SQS Project" have introduced her to the independent desi music scene where she has also created a significant fan following.
Her successes grew rapidly, as her talents brought her star-studded opportunities including opening acts for Sunidhi Chauhan’s concert at the Sony Centre in Toronto, as well as Sonu Nigam's Klose To My Heart tour for which she is now an integral part of the production as it continues to tour internationally. Other performances include appearances with singers like Chang, Parthiv Gohil, and Chinmayee, and the Michigan Philharmonic Symphony. Jonita has recently headlined her own shows with Aakash Gandhi in Dubai, Singapore and India.
On talking about Indian feel in Toronto, she says, “There is quite a large population of Indians residing in Toronto. Everything from the food, music, clothes and culture are all easily accessible and are actually part of mainstream culture there too. There’s even a street called Gerrard Street that’s dedicated to the Indian community, where you can find almost anything you would need or get from India. My family is well connected to the Indian community, through whom I was given opportunities to perform Indian music with a background from various parts of India and also fuse my music with musicians from across the globe. That is what's so great about Canada – it is a land of immigrants and an awesome place to find inspiration in music.”
While in India, Jonita has appeared in several prestigious performances and media appearances. In addition to performing as the lead female singer with Sonu Nigam across the nation, recently, Jonita was selected to perform live on TV for Priyanka Chopra's Our Girls Our Pride telethon which was broadcasted internationally on NDTV. With her online presence and videos, she gained recognition by music composers in Bollywood playback, including Vishal Dadlani, which led to her debut in the title track of Chennai Express.
Shortly, after her debut in Bollywood playback, Jonita was contacted to record for jingles and regional films including two Bengali films. Her biggest break was when she received a call from the studios of renowned maestro A.R Rahman, which opened a new door in her path of successes. Her first Bollywood solo, Kahaan Hoon Main from the movie Highway, was an excellent showcase of her eastern and western musical influences. She made it on her own as she was part of the song from the initial humming-through-composition stages to recording the final song. Since then, Jonita has had the opportunity of working with Rahman on several Bollywood tracks, as well as, on two songs in his Raunaq album for politician Kapil Sibal.
“Music makes me happy; sometimes just hearing really great music on an awesome sound system can make me feel ecstatic. I’ve had several experiences that I can look back to which have left me feeling overjoyed. When I found out that A.R. Rahman stumbled upon a YouTube video of mine and tweeted about me, I was extremely excited! Certain messages that fans have sent me have also left their marks. I’m so happy that my music has a positive effect on people and touches them. Also, it makes me immensely happy getting recognized and appreciated by people whom I admire,” says Jonita.
Jonita’s work as a recording and performing artist is yet in its budding stage. Her desire and determination to grow as a vocalist continues to help her excel in her career. Her aspirations for her career range from social aspects including making real connections with people through her music, singing to inspire, and spreading awareness about important social causes to bridge the gap between Western and India music with fusion works. “Mumbai is full of great talent and I’m trying my best to explore my music by working with others here and meeting lots of great musicians,” she says. Jonita’s future as a singer looks far beyond the horizon as a promising personality.
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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 17th November 2014.