Jonita Gandhi, who started out as a YouTuber, made her Bollywood singing debut with the title track of Chennai Express. The singer, who has rendered hit tracks such as The Breakup Song and Gilehriyaan, shares with us her favourite travel memories, her road trip playlist and the places she wants to explore in India. By Anushka Goel
T+L India: Tell us about your latest song, the Punjabi single Mera Jee Karda. How did this come about?
Jonita Gandhi: Mera Jee Karda is a beautiful Punjabi song about long-distance love. It’s an exciting collaboration with my friend and fellow Canadian artiste Deep Jandu. He reached out to me some time ago for the song and we worked on the audio remotely while I was in India. Fortunately, we were able to shoot the video together in Canada when I went home.
T+L India: You’ve had a multi-cultural upbringing. How did living in India and Canada shape you as a musician?
Jonita Gandhi: Growing up in Canada, I was surrounded by music across languages and genres. I think that exposure helped me keep an open mind, especially when it comes to music. At home, my parents played a range of Bollywood music, from old songs to the latest releases, and at school and festivals, I was surrounded by Western pop music and music from various cultures. I would teach myself Bollywood songs and shabads by listening to them and started learning western vocals from the Ontario Conservatory of Music. When I was at the university, I took up Western Classical vocal classes and learnt to sing Opera. I appreciate having been exposed to such variety because I think I’ve been able to take away techniques from everything I’ve heard and tried over the years, and developed my own style of singing.
T+L India: Travelling often fuels creativity. Did any destination inspire you to create a song?
Jonita Gandhi: The physical space you’re in can really affect and inspire your creativity. I think more than the destination, it’s been the people and the energy around me that have been infused into some music I’m working on currently. I’ve had the fortune of travelling to work with some really creative people lately and their vibes and personalities inspired me while working on these tracks.
T+L India: What kind of Indian regional music do you like?
Jonita Gandhi: Music from India is so diverse! I love that there’s a plethora of languages and styles to explore. I’ve always been inspired to try my hands at as many of them as I can–all Indian regional music is beautiful to me.
T+L India: Top songs in your road trip playlist?
Jonita Gandhi: This changes regularly based on the songs I may be working on or tripping on at the time. I don’t have specific go-to songs when it comes to road trip playlists, but it’s usually the songs I’m inspired by at the time or songs I’m currently working on. A few on today’s list include Aisha (Memba), Too Hype (Sanjoy, Sid Sriram, Divine), Zinda Dilli (Salim-Sulaiman, Arijit Singh), and Mexico Koka (Karan Aujla).
T+L India: Have you ever travelled to a new destination just to attend a concert? If yes, tell us more about it.
Jonita Gandhi: I’m fortunate to have attended some amazing concerts while travelling for gigs. Although I haven’t flown anywhere solely to attend a concert, I’ve driven for hours to see some incredible live events by other artists while on work trips. I was able to attend a Beyonce concert while on tour in 2018 with Anirudh. We were excited to know that Beyonce was performing in Amsterdam around the same time we would be there, so we ensured our travel dates aligned with her show. Also, while touring in the US with AR Rahman Sir, many of us from the band attended a Cirque Du Soleil concert and were mind blown at the magnanimity of the production.
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T+L India: Did you ever jam with a bunch of strangers while on a holiday?
Jonita Gandhi: This has happened at random moments during my travels! It’s always amazing to meet and hang out with musicians from across the globe.
T+L India: Tell us about your bucket list Indian destinations.
Jonita Gandhi: There are several places in India I’ve travelled to for work but haven’t been able to explore, and are still on my bucket list. Some cities on the list that I haven’t visited at all are Dehradun, Darjeeling, and Shillong.
T+L India: What do you miss the most about India when you are out and away on tours?
Jonita Gandhi: The food and the people! India has become my home away from home and I’m so lucky to have friends who are like family here.