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Home / Brunch / Jonita Gandhi: From Toronto to tinsel town #Coverstars

Jonita Gandhi: From Toronto to tinsel town #Coverstars

Jonita Gandhi is among the first crop of singers who started off by singing cover versions of Bollywood song on YouTube

brunch Updated: Sep 04, 2017 19:33 IST
Ananya Ghosh
Ananya Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Jonita Gandhi (Jonita wears a dress from H&M)
Jonita Gandhi (Jonita wears a dress from H&M)(Shivangi Kulkarni)

Jonita Gandhi can be called one of the pioneers in this field. When she started off in 2010, YouTube videos were far from the stylized, sleek and professional versions of today. These were home-made amateur videos put together by youngsters experimenting with the medium. “I posted my first video simply because YouTube was the new fun exciting thing and I had absolutely zero idea about its potentials. I used to watch these home videos people were putting up and thought to myself that oh this is pretty cool! So I shot some random selfie videos in my basement and posted them,” says Jonita, who grew up in Brampton, Canada but always carried a piece of Bollywood in her heart.

She came across another singer, who had a similar story. “I stumbled upon some YouTube videos that Aakash (Gandhi) had put up. Like me, he was doing Bollywood covers along with English songs. We both had a similar NRI background and I kind of connected to his music. So I sent him a message and he responded. We decided to collaborate. His setup was a lot more professional so I went to a studio a recorded a song properly and sent it to him. He arranged the music and we put it up on YouTube,” reminisces the 27-year-old songstress.

25 Jan 2012 and the song was Yeh Honsla. Jonita was preparing for her university exams. “I couldn’t belief the kind of response it started garnering! Every ten minutes it would get a few dozen of likes!” she recounts. Salim Merchant of Salim-Sulaiman, who had composed the original, tweeted the cover. It was a surreal moment for Jonita. Sitting at her home in Brampton, she couldn’t get herself to believe that somebody from Bollywood had actually heard their song and liked it. “It was then I realized maybe I had done something right!”

She went on to collaborate with Aakash on a few more covers and each went viral. “At that time, although covers of international artists were pretty common, there weren’t many singers doing covers of Bollywood songs. I kept putting up videos and would send them here and there as demo tapes,” Jonita recalls who then won a singing contest which gave her an opportunity to go on a singing tour with Sonu Nigam. She had finished her studies by then. And somehow all roads led to Mumbai.

Here she kept winning hearts and followers through her soulful renditions of popular Bollywood songs as well as old classics. In 2013 she also made her Bollywood debut with the title track of Chennai Express and the very next year she worked with AR Rahman on Highway.

In 2013 she also made her Bollywood debut with the title track of Chennai Express and the very next year she worked with AR Rahman on Highway. Last year she had two chartbusters, Gilharyan (Dangal) and The Breakup Song (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil), and her latest release Lagdi hai Thaai (Simran) is also climbing the charts. But her Bollwyood career has not stopped her from indulging her social media fans. She has come up with covers of Chura Liya, Suhaani Raat, Bol do na zara, Pani Da Rang, Tujhko Jo Paaya, Tum Hi Ho and more recently Raabta, among others.

“I had learnt Western classical music but I didn’t finish the course. I wanted to learn Hindustani classical but there weren’t any good teachers in Toronto. There was a couple but they lived too far. Singing was never my first priority. I would listen to semi-classsical songs of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle and try to learn from those. My dad is a musician by hobby. He would sometimes play in gigs. So I would often quietly pick up those songs and hum. He heard those and started to push me to sing. But I was too shy. If I had to sing, everybody had to turn around or I would close my eyes so that I don’t see anybody. Maybe that is why youtube caught my fancy. You can do it on your own, whenever you feel like, and perfect it before the world gets a glimpse of it!” says Jonita.

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