Ahead of World Music Day, singer Jonita Gandhi says indie music in India is growing steadily, courtesy the pandemic
The voice behind hit songs such as Mental Manadhil from O Kadhal Kanmani, The Breakup Song from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Single Ladies from Indoo Ki Jawani, Jonita Gandhi will be presenting a special show on World Music Day that will be celebrated on June 21.
The young and versatile singer, who has sung many tracks for AR Rahman as well, will be hosting #LiftUpwithMusic, a special show that features many other singers who will be performing unplugged and will be part of interactive sessions. Ahead World Music Day, Jonita tells us about what to expect on the show, her musical journey and what next! Excerpts:
Tell us about your show on World Music Day that will be aired on MTV Beats, Vh1 and MTV.
The #LiftUpwithMusic concert is a series of performances by artistes that are meant to “lift up” the spirits of viewers across India. Several incredible performers have prepared special live renditions of songs that we are personally attached to because they help put us in a good mood. It has been a rough couple of years and we just want to share our love for music with the people who empower us to keep making music! This concert is our small way of giving back and we sincerely hope that everyone who joins us feels like their spirits have been lifted!
You started singing very young... and performed several stage shows. How challenging was it to do playback singing?
The journey of learning to be a recording artiste for film has been really interesting and rewarding, and I feel like it’s a lifelong learning experience. When you sing for film, you’re singing as a character, and the song is situational and part of a storyline. So it’s almost as though you need to do a bit of acting with your voice. It becomes a unique exercise of taking on the character who will be the face of your voice, and emoting the way they would in the story. Every time we step in front of the microphone, we’re taking on a new character and a new situation, which always keeps it interesting and enjoyable!
What are your earliest memories of performing on stage? Any anecdotes?
I remember the very first time I ever sang at a public event. My dad’s band was performing at a Christmas party and he convinced me to prepare and sing one song. It was Maye Ni Maye and I messed up the lyrics at a certain point. My mom was recording a video of the performance and she was so nervous her hands were shaking!
Do you think independent music in India is finally getting its due because of online streaming platforms?
In the past, several artistes in India have achieved success and fame as popstars, but somewhere along the way, Bollywood music seemed to take over. I think there are a lot of reasons independent music is growing steadily in India now, and a lot of it has to do with the pandemic in my opinion. The entire music space in India had to pivot, and that pivot happened to be away from Bollywood music since a lot of film shoots were on hold due to restrictions. Audiences were looking for music to listen to and artistes were looking for an outlet. I think at the same time, streaming platforms pivoted as well so the timing just happened to work out in a way that favoured the independent scene.
Which one do you prefer more - stage performances or playback singing?
They’re both such different experiences, I wouldn’t choose one over the other. Singing live in front of an audience has an energy that can’t be matched. Recording vocals, whether for playback, original songs or covers, allows for creativity and experimentation to bring life to a song in a way that lasts forever.
From your repertoire of songs - which one's your favourite and why? Which one was really challenging to sing and why?
One of my most favourite songs that I’ve sung is Kahaan Hoon Main from the film Highway. It was the first solo song I sang in Bollywood, and such a rewarding experience working with Rahman sir from conception of the melody to the final product of the song. I learned so much about myself as a singer through the process of recording the song. One of the most challenging songs I’ve sung was Saajan Aayo Re from the film OK Jaanu. It’s a tough song to sing, especially since I’m not really trained in Indian classical singing. Prior to recording the song in Hindi, I had been performing the Tamil version of the song, ‘Naane Varugiren’, during the AR Rahman Live concerts, so I had to unlearn certain nuances that sort of had become habit after performing it several times.
What are your singing rituals? Do you do riyaaz every day?
Unfortunately I don’t do riyaaz daily, but I do have certain basic exercises that I warm up with when I find the time. One of my rituals when I perform, is that I like to have a cup of hot black coffee before I hit the stage. It has become a bit of a habit.
What are you working on next?
In addition to some fun new covers for my YouTube channel, I’m working on a few new singles and exploring some songwriting as well. I’m really excited to share them with everyone and will be sharing more about it on my social media accounts, so please stay tuned to @jonitamusic on all platforms and make sure you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel as well!
#LiftUpWithMusic will air on MTV Beats - 12 PM, 6 PM, 10 PM; Vh1 - 12 PM and 9 PM and MTV - 2:30 PM, 8:30 PM