Bollywood singer Jonita Gandhi, who headlined Toronto’s DesiFest over the weekend, spoke with ET Canada about how growing up in a multi-cultural area near Toronto paved the path for her career in the industry.

Gandhi also discussed how listening to Bollywood music in an Indian household helped her understand the industry.

“I think when I was really young, it kind of was that was for me, the golden standard of like where I wanted to be in music. That’s kind of all I knew growing up,” Gandhi tells Morgan Hoffman.

“Ironically, growing up in Canada, I did grow up in a household where we listened to a lot of Bollywood music and a lot of Indian artists were playing around the house. And there’s this one actress in Bollywood -Madhuri Dixit, and I was in love with her, all of her songs. I used to think she was singing her own songs, but she wasn’t. At first, I wanted to become her, basically and dance. And then I realized, okay, singing is also a whole thing on its own,” she continues.

Gandhi also shared that her dad persuaded her to rehearse more and was very supportive. She added: “People sing for these actors behind the scenes. And then and my dad comes from a bit of a musical background. He used to play in his band in college and stuff, although he’s an engineer. So once he knew I was kind of excited about music, he really pushed me to kind of rehearse and work on my skill, and I think that’s a big reason why I did. And from then to now, every day I kind of put more and more time into it. I realized, Oh, I can do this full-time, and then here I am.”


Gandhi once auditioned for “Canadian Idol” and didn’t get past it. Of it, she said: “I think something like that, it’s normal. I realized rejection and missed opportunities are all part of the rollercoaster — When you’re in an industry like this, when you’re chasing your dreams, when you’re doing something a little bit unconventional. So, I just took it in my stride and (thought) I’m going to meet them one day and be like, ‘Well, look where I am now’.”

Jonita Gandhi also spoke about her “stamp of approval” from popular Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam. “Once I did this tour and once I felt like I kind of had the like that stamp of approval of this artist named Sonu Nigam. I felt like, ‘You know what? If he thinks I’m good enough to sing on his show, maybe I should go to India and just see what’s up.’ So, that’s when I was like, I kind of gathered the courage.”

Gandhi says she was ‘disocvered’ by Grammy and Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman. When asked what it was like getting a phone call from the legendary Indian composer, she replied: “That was weird. I think I got a text from (the team) and it sounded vaguely shady. They didn’t even sign off. They just wrote. ‘Hi. You are required for a recording in Chennai (a city in south India).’ And I was like, okay, But I kind of had a heads up that someone had given his office my number.”

“The Breakup Song,” “Mental Manadhil,” “Chellama,” and “Arabic Kuthu” are a few of Jonita’s best-known songs.

She has a large following on YouTube as well. The title tune from “Chennai Express” served as her vocal debut in 2013.