The good folks at the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) not only orchestrate a couple of great outdoor concerts in Brampton and Mississauga with A list performers, each year, but they have always given Toronto Desi Diaries access to the artists. So, here’s a big shout out to all the behind-the-scenes wizards handling social media, PR, stage, and all the promotional duties. You guys, rock.
But, before you dive right into my Q&A with Nikhita Gandhi, here’s what you need to know about the July 2019 concerts:
What: The 9th Bollywood Monster Mashup
When: July 18-20 with back-to-back concerts happening at Mississauga’s Celebration Square
Who: Nikhita will take on the stage on Friday, July 19, and on Saturday, July 20, enjoy the soulful melodies of Yasser Desai with the man himself. You may have heard of Yasser’s voice belting out (Pallo Latke) and my absolute favourite Naino ne baandi from the Akshay Kumar starrer, Gold. Friday’s show will also feature performances by Reign Yash Academy, Parichay, Waris Virse De, Peace & Love and R&B United Band.
Saturday evening witness The Shiamak Showkids, The Band Destiny, Nick Ft. Vedik Vibez Orchestra, Ankita Music, Desi Muziko Band, and Mehboob Orchestra, plus, the annual #BollywoodMonster Orchestra ( Vikas Kohli) will be teaming up with Univox Choir to perform hit songs from Bajirao Mastani, Agneepath and other films with over 20 voices on stage.
How’s that for a monster celebration, eh?
“Nine years in, and we keep upping the ante on the free concerts and free activities for families in Mississauga, the GTA, across Ontario, and beyond,” noted Vikas Kohli, artistic director, MonstrARTity. “From Bollywood stars with their debut Canadian performance, to brilliant dance performances, KidZone crafts and games, food, shopping and more. Come on out and join us as we sing, dance and eat all weekend long.”
In conversation with Nikhita Gandhi
Pursuing her musical dreams meant, Nikhita, 27, had to ditch her plans to become a dental surgeon (she was in her fourth year of school) when fate staggered and took an unexpected turn, leading her into the world of music. Nikhita’s idyllic childhood in Calcutta was spent in hours of riyaz (practice). Whether it was classical Hindustani music, Odissi dance or hitting the textbooks, this self-professed nerd appears to have mastered it all.
Since her debut in 2015, Nikhita has delivered a string of chart-toppers include Raabta, Qaafirana from Kedarnath, Ullu ka patha with Arjit from Jagga Jassos, Madaari from the Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, and dozens of others including some regional hits.
Nikhita shares some details of her life including some surprising talents (hint: let’s say she’ll be more than at home at the Home Depot or Lowe’s).
Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD): How did you became interested in music?
NG: I am a “quintessential Bong.” My family (Bengali/Punjabi) is from Calcutta. Culture is huge in Bengal and so, that’s something I imbibed.
TDD: How was your life in Chennai?
NG: I moved to Chennai to do my bachelor’s in dental surgery. It (Chennai) is where I met Rahman sir (AR Rahman) and it was where I recorded my first song as a professional musician (Ladio).
TDD: Was there an ‘aha’ moment for you when your path as a singer became clear?
NG: When I started working with Rahman sir, I was still in college. I took everything that came my way as an experience and a new chapter.
The ‘aha’ moment was when I met Rahman sir after my first song and he asked me what my plans were. I told him, “Sir, I am in my final year and my plan is to finish this (dental surgery) and maybe do my master’s.”
He looked at me and said, “Are you serious? You’re now a singer. This is your life, now.”
And that was a defining moment.
TDD: What’s the life of a playback singer like?
NG: I am fairly new and just getting used to the rhythm out here in Mumbai. A typical day could be one that starts at 4 or 5 a.m. all the way until 3 a.m. the following morning. Or it could be one when I have nothing to do, so I am rehearsing or doing my own shows and cultivating my art. I am also a composer and songwriter. It’s all very unpredictable. I am a workaholic and love to keep busy.
TDD: What does an aspiring singer need to do in order to make it in the cut-throat music industry?
NG: There’s no formula, so, I can’t speak for everybody. But one thing I have been clear about is that; I always want to be true to myself. Whatever I do, I do what’s right. I don’t do things because it will position me in a certain way. I believe in hard work. I have enjoyed the journey because I think if you have a positive outlook, it makes things so much fun and interesting.
TDD: Who are your favourite singers, composers?
NG: I have been blessed to be able to work with the crème de la crème in my nascent years in the industry. Composers such as A.R Rahman, Pritam da, Sachin-Jigar, Amit Trivedi, Vishal Bhardwaj, Vishal-Shekhar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, etc. I am really excited at some of the stuff that’s in the pipeline.
Singers? I sang my first Bollywood song with Arjit Singh.. he’s so fabulous. I love Sasha’s voice. I am a person who loves textures. I am a die-hard fan of Abida Parveen and other singers with amazing unique sounds.
TDD: What’s your most favourite thing to do?
NG: My most favourite thing to do is to dance to some song that’s been stuck in my head. I love dancing alone. When I have a chill day to myself, I play the tune that I have been listening to in a loop and dance. It’s the most liberating thing…
TDD: Who’s on your playlist?
NG: There are a lot of artists I have been tripping on – Post Malone, Kehlani (Ashley), Daniel Caesar(R&B) and others.
TDD: One thing no one knows about you?
NG: I am a real nerd. I also love fixing things and making furniture. At home, I am an electrician, painter and what not. I have a tool kit with drills, hammers, etc.
TDD: What can we expect from your upcoming performance at Bollywood Monster Mashup?
NG: I am really excited about performing at the Bollywood Monster Mashup. This will be my first public show in Canada. I am going to perform all of my songs including some of my regional stuff. So, please do come, whatever community you belong to. I am going to give a little something to everybody. It’s going to be super versatile and interesting.