Toronto’s Nick Pandya will sweep you off your feet with his voice


Toronto Desi Diaries is baaack.

It was a long hiatus. This blog’s purpose was always to connect me to my true passion, writing. There was a disconnect. I had gotten lost.

Anyway, the Summer of 2020—much like the year itself— is all about recalibrating, readjusting and gradually merging into the lanes of normalcy (whatever that is).

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught me, it is: Life will keep delivering the same lesson until you learn from it.


This year’s, BollywoodMonster Mashup (BMM) will take place Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25 via Facebook. Tune in to at 6 p.m. (EST) to go on a scintillating evening of dance and music. 

Headlining the virtual concert on Friday, July 24 is Canada’s most popular transplant to Bollywood – Sunny Leone. Sunny will perform a few of her hits, and afterwards take part in a live chat.

Arjuna Harjai, a critically-acclaimed Bollywood composer/ singer of the Choti Choti Gal (Motichoor Chaknachoor) and O Soniye (Titoo MBA) fame, will also present a selection of his foot-tapping Bollywood melodies.  

On Saturday, July 25, Meet Bros and Khushboo Grewal will take on the entertaining responsibilities. Meet Bros (Harmeet and Manmeet Singh) are the men behind chartbusters such as “Lamborghini” (Jai Mummy Di), “Main Tera Boyfriend” (Raabta) and “Babydoll” (Ragini MMS 2).


When you watch Nick Pandya’s excellent cover of Mere Sohneya from the movie Kabir, two thoughts will hit you simultaneously. First, his voice. Oh, what a voice.

Second, the cookie-cutter homes set against the backdrop of a man-made body of water will be oddly familiar. Yes, the video was filmed in a subdivision near Mayfield Road and The Gore in Brampton.

After months of being cooped indoors because of the pandemic, Nick decided to venture outside. This music video was a tribute to tasting life’s small pleasures— fresh air, sunshine and music.

Within the Toronto and nearby areas, Nick, 28, is somewhat a homegrown celebrity and a YouTube sensation. His covers of popular Hindi and Gujarati songs are worthy of a listen or two.

An alumnus of Bramalea Secondary School, Nick has performed alongside Shankar Mahadevan, Jonita Gandhi, Chinmayi, Sukhvinder and others.

“Besides my parents, the person who inspires me the most is Shankar Mahadevan (Bollywood singer/composer),” said Nick who did a show in Toronto with Mahadevan. “When a reporter asked Shankar where he saw himself in life, Shankar replied that as a musician and human being, he wanted to be second because that way, he could continue to learn from the person in the first place.”

Mental health and Music

Nick works as a psychotherapist. When he’s not helping alleviate mental health and addiction issues, he’s fully immersed in his musical career and running Darshan Entertainment with his Dad.

“I believe in having a balance between music and my day job,” Nick said. “My job gives me the drive and the motivation to do better in my music and my career. I use music as a way of self-care.”

Nick Pandya, singer/co-founder Darshan Entertainment

Nick’s introduction to music started at 9 when he began taking tabla lessons. He studied the Indian skin instrument for 12 years and is acquainted with the elements of rhythm. This may be why his vocal prowess has that special something, an easy familiarity with the notes.

In 2008, he was the first runner- up in a reality TV contest judged by the well-known Pandit Jasraj. The contest, which unfolded over nine months, gave the audience a chance to know Nick and his vocal range. Soon after, opportunities came knocking.

Nick’s parents are his biggest cheerleaders. Their relationship appears to be one filled with mutual love.

During Navratri, Dandiya with Pandya (a second family business), is booked solid. Incidentally, Nick’s cover of a well-known song Moti Veerana by Osman Mir and Amit Trivedi is a viral hit. It has garnered more than 70,000 views on YouTube and is one of the most requested songs during his live performances.

“I think the most important thing with music is even though I would love to do it full-time, I am enjoying myself fully doing it part-time, and that, to me is the most important thing,” he says.

Toronto’s Nick Pandya, singer, co-founder, and producer of Darshan Entertainment and Dandiya with Pandya has performed alongside Shankar Mahadevan, Jonita Gandhi, Chinmayi, Sukhvinder and other Bollywood artists. On Friday, July 23, Pandya will perform at the 2020 BollywoodMonster Mashup happening via Facebook live.

On BollywoodMonster Mashup

Nick says BMM is a professionally-run concert that continues to give him a platform to showcase his craft to one of the biggest audiences in the GTA.

Nick will perform at the BMM Friday, July 24.


The maverick behind the Bollywood Monster Mashup reveals the secret sauce



Vikas Kohli (centre) with the Bollywood Monster Orchestra. Photo by Jamie Espinoza

Have you noticed how animated some folks become when describing the antics of their child or a pet?

Picture that enthusiasm and multiply it with an outrageously high number to understand how invested Vikas Kohli is with the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM), an annual three-day festival in Mississauga, that he started six years ago.

(Wow, did I just use a Math metaphor?).  He also owns and runs FatLabs, a recording studio in Mississauga.

“I couldn’t have predicted how popular this festival has gotten in six years,” Vikas told TDD recently. “We continually have first-time performers in Canada, in fact, we’re at a stage where we’ve multiple headliners talking to us about wanting to be at BMM. People in Bollywood actually know about the festival now. How cool is that?”

 Sound castles in the air:

For some months now, Vikas, the artistic director of BMM and an award-winning composer, has been furiously working on arranging the music scores for the orchestra portion of BMM Finale concert.

The orchestra will deliver fusion sounds that combine old Bollywood songs with western influences.

“People often ask me, where can they find the band that played at BMM and I tell them, it doesn’t exist,” Vikas said adding, each and every musician that’s part of orchestra was handpicked and invited to perform at the concert.


The string section of the Bollywood Monster Orchestra will play several Bollywood hits fused with other influences. Photo by Chris Scaini

On Saturday, July 23, the Bollywood Monster Orchestra and Mississauga Pops wind orchestra will deliver a number of retro Hindi songs with powerful string section and blend it with original scores created by Vikas’ musical sensibilities.

Vikas’ influences range from rock ‘n’ roll to jazz to hip-hop, metal and of course Bollywood. So, the sounds you hear will be unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Imagine arranging dozens of scores for a single event and then as the evening ends, the notes too disappear, never to be heard again.

“We create signature acts every year and no other festival does this,” Vikas said. “It takes six months of work and rehearsals to do this. I not only pick the songs, but also decide what kind of instruments to have on the stage. Then, I sit down and make musical charts for all the musicians.”

Once the band is assembled, they run rehearsals. That’s a lot of work for a free event.

The BMM Orchestra (Symphony Nights) on the main stage will include a traditional, classical European-string section delivering rich and beautiful sounds built on some evergreen Bollywood hits. We’re talking a 55-piece wind orchestra and 13-piece string one.

The three elements of BMM festivals:

  1. Artist debut in Canada: So far, all the headliners of the BMM for the past six years have admitted to Vikas afterwards about how bowled over they were by the euphoria and the vibe of the crowd. For these artists making their Toronto debut, that’s a big deal.
  2. Cross-cultural offerings: The BMM has done an exceptional job of fusing South Asian culture with mainstream, whether it’s tap dancing, orchestra or performances by dance ensembles. This year, Culture Rock, a Toronto group will wow the crowd with Bharatnatyam, waacking, hip-hop and more.
  3. Comedy Show: For the past couple of years, humour has been a staple of BMM. This year’s event in Brampton was just what the doctor ordered, a barrel of laughs.

For more information visit here.


Aishwarya Nigam to headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup Concert


Monster Finale

What: Bollywood Monster Mashup Finale
When/Where: Saturday, July 23 from 2 p.m. onward at Celebration Square, Mississauga. Finale events begin at 6:30 p.m.
Who: Aishwarya Nigam (headliner), Mississauga Orchestra, Culture Shock and more
What else: KidsZone, food vendors, Laser Show


Here’s a prophecy:

I can predict with eerie precision when the masses taking in the Bollywood Monster Mashup’s (BMM) Finale concert will likely go berserk.

It will be a Nano second after the opening bars to Munni Badnam Hui (Dabangg) hits the ether.

I am not a Bollywood movie buff. In fact, my quota to watch a Hindi film is one every few years, but I am an avowed Hindi music fan. The streaming app on my phone is the only thing that keeps me sane during my brutal commute each day.

So, I know Aishwarya will bring the crowd to its feet more than few times. What’s interesting is his other chartbusters: His rendition of Lut Gaye Tere Mohalle (Beshraam) that is incidentally on my playlist will be another crowd favourite.

Let’s get to Aishwarya’s bio

He won the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in 2006, in addition to participating and winning other reality music crowns: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Ek Se Badkar Ek, IPL Rockstar and more.


Aishwarya Nigam

Aishwarya has performed at more than 500 shows in India and abroad. The BMM will be his first in Canada. He has a debut album Ek Main Aur Ek Tu.

Highlights of the BMM finale:

  • KidZone: This activity-filled portion of BMM includes mini-car racing, kite/mask making workshops and more and will start at 2 p.m. onwards
  • Mississauga Monster Orchestra: Starting at 6:30 p.m., a string/wind orchestra, under the artistic direction of Vikas Kohli will perform a variety of retro songs with a new and fresh twist
  • Culture Shock: will showcase a fusion piece with Bhartnatyam, Bollywood, waacking (underground dance style) and hip-hop
  • What’s on? Tap! : This Mississauga group, a festival favourite, will tap dance to Bollywood numbers
  • A stunning Laser Show, food vendors and more

The festival is absolutely free. For information about parking, getting there etc. visit here.

Sanchari Bose and Bishakh Jyoti of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa to perform at BMM



What: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) Concert
When/Where: Friday, July 22 at Celebration Square in Mississauga at 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Who: Bishakh Jyoti and Sanchari Bose will headline the concert. Dance troupe Afsana, the Destiny dancers and Bollywood hits by Mohua and Dhiraj


Just a quick note to let y’all know, Toronto Desi Diaries is proud to be a media partner for MonstrARTity’s 2016 Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) events.

As a blogger/journalist, I am leery of endorsing brands, but I had no conflict when I said “yes” to BMM folks. Variety of reasons dictated this : (a) they’re one of the biggest South Asian festivals in Canada (b) I love how they’re engaging not just the desis, but the mainstream population as well. Their line-up includes many fusion elements that blend the best of east and west. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) is a three-day festival.

The first component, BMM does Brampton, is happening, Saturday, July 16 at 9 p.m. at Spot 1 Grill on Rutherford Rd. in Brampton. Got your tickets yet?

This blog is about the concert on July 22.


So, who’s Bishakh?

I know many folks watch the Indian Music Reality TV show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and if you’re one of them, you probably know pretty much everything I have to say about him.

Anyway here’s the Coles note on the rising stars of Bollywood’s playback singing world:
Support and encouragement from his family led Bishakh to audition for Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which he won in 2007 and took second place in 2011.

hi rez bishakh

Bishakh Jyoti will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) concert, July 22 at the Celebration Square in Mississauga. Show runs from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

He was nominated for Best Music Director at the New York Film Festival and Florence Festival for Mrs. Scooter. He was also nominated for a Mirchi Music award for Best Music Director for his compositions in Babloo Happy Hai.

Bishakh loves travelling and an important advice he’s gotten during his travels is, “to sing from heart.” Which is precisely what he will do, Friday, July 22.

Another alumni:

Sanchari, much like Bishakh, is a fellow alumnus of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. She took the crown in 2002-2003 and went on to also win the “Amul Star Voice of India” contest in 2007.

“It really makes me happy when I see the smiles in people’s faces when they listen to my music or watching me perform,” Sanchari penned in an online site. “For me when one can create a complete silence among the audience with a combination of smile and tears, that means you have hit the target.”

HiRez sanchari.jpg

Sanchari Bose will headline the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) concert, July 22, at Celebration Square in Mississauga.

Sanchari has won dozens of awards for her dulcet voice in her home state – Madhya Pradesh (she’s from Jabalpur) and performed more than 1,000 shows .

She has lent her voice as a playback singer for movies like The World Before Her, by Anurag Kashyap, Kabab Mein Haddi with Daler Mahendi and released a ghazal album ASHQ with Jaswinder Singh.

The concert is free. For more information visit  here.

Rajdeep Chatterjee: all set to wow the Canadians


Bollywood singing sensation Rajdeep Chatterjee will perform at the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) at Celebration Square in Mississauga, Saturday, Aug. 30.

Bollywood singing sensation Rajdeep Chatterjee will perform at the Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) at Celebration Square in Mississauga, Saturday, Aug. 30.

Vikas Kohli, artistic director, Zee Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM), straddles two musical worlds— western and masala Bollywood — with ease.

The internationally renowned music producer/composer and his state-of-the-art studio, Fatlabs are pretty well known in this part of the world, but apart from his  musical IQ, Vikas has weighty academic credentials as well.

Let’s see, honours degree in math and philosophy as well as business and CFA (chartered financial analyst) degrees. Trust me, in journalistic circles, an intelligent, well-read and successful source can become a coveted and valued asset. It’s he or she that sets the tone of the story.

I digress. When the press release about Vikas’ Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) landed on my inbox, I asked my colleague if I could ‘poach’ on his beat. That’s how much I wanted to write about it.

Unlike most other festivals that cater to desis, BMM attempts to bridge two cultures — Canadian and Indian —with its fantastic fusion offerings. The main stage event on Saturday, Aug. 30 has Vikas’ stamp all over it. One segment will include Indian artists and singers crooning alongside western musicians and mixing melodies to create a heady cocktail of notes.

Rest assured, the show will run as per schedule because Ottawa-born Vikas has zero tolerance for the tardy Indian Standard Time (IST).

Last year, Vikas received a frantic call during the show from his event manager saying they were running three minutes behind, but with some minor tweaking, the concert was set back on track. Most organizers would have dismissed those three minutes as a minor irritant, but not the good folks at BMM. Now, that’s something everyone will appreciate, especially the fans.


Bollywood singer Rajdeep Chatterjee will headline the free concert at Celebration Square in Mississauga. Here’s an exclusive chat Toronto Desi Diaries had with the immensely talented artist.

TDD: Tell us about some of the highlights of your life prior to your fame?

Bollywood Singer Rajdeep Chatterjee will headline the free Bollywood Monster Mashup concert, Saturday, Aug. 30 at Celebration Square Mississauga.

Bollywood Singer Rajdeep Chatterjee will headline the free Bollywood Monster Mashup concert, Saturday, Aug. 30 at Celebration Square Mississauga.

RC: I started learning music from the age of three. My mum was my first guru. I learnt Hindustani classical music for a few years and then started performing live at the age of eight. It has been 15 years now and I have done around 1,500 shows across the world. Before being the 3rd runner up of Indian idol season 4, I was also a part of Zee Lil champs in ‘05-06 where I reached the final 11, but had to quit because of my exams.

TDD: What about your struggles?

RC: Yes, struggle is a part of almost every artist’s journey and it’s not just the physical struggle, but the mental one as well. I was quite an introvert before I actually started performing live. In school, I was somehow not considered a good artist and was never given a chance to perform when all the other singers were given opportunities to prove themselves. But the will was always there. I waited and waited and finally got the television reality shows. That’s when I realized I could entertain people.

TDD: What are your strengths aside from the great voice and a great smile?

RC: Well, I believe my strength is my ability to spread happiness and positive vibes through my music and performances. I really work hard on stage to give everything I can … I have seen people connect to my music when I do it live. I am a very positive soul and I guess, I find it easy to spread smiles and happiness. If your art touches people’s hearts, you’re worth it.

TDD: What are you looking forward to at Bollywood Monster Mashup?

RC: I am extremely excited to be a part of BMM; it is one of the best Bollywood festivals internationally. The audience at BMM is always amazing and it feels like homecoming whenever I come to Canada.

TDD: How did you meet Vikas (Kohli) and why did you agree to perform at BMM?

RC: Vikas is like a buddy, a brother to me. We call each other as bhai. We have known each other for two years. I absolutely love his family, his mum and his cousins. I am always game for everything that Vikas bhai does.

TDD: Playback singing is a competitive environment, are you ready to take it on?

RC: Only true talent gets to shine among so many singers who are trying to make it big in the industry. I have been lucky that my hardwork has paid off and I have been singing for big Bollywood movies. I hope to continue doing that for years to come.

TDD: Your song for Bodyguard was a hit, when did it strike you that you had made it?

RC: It was a great experience to sing the title track of Bodyguard, Khiladi 786, and I also got to sing for the Bengali version of Gunday. I was also a part of Coke Studio season 2 for music director Shantanu Moitra. Recently, I started my own unplugged YouTube channel (IMX unplugged) where we do a lot of melody stuff. We are getting a great response.

TDD: Some quick questions

Favorite all-time movie: I am a hardcore SRK fan, so DDLJ (dil wale dulhaniya le jayenge).

Favorite cuisine: I love Indian food all the way

Philosophy that you stick by: love yourself. Only you know how to do it the best way

Success is: When I have “N” number of reasons to smile and be happy

If not a singer, what then: I would have had to discover an art that no one had ever tried and entertain people because I have always wanted to be a performer (laughs)

The Monster Mashup Double Take will run Saturday, Aug. 30 at Celebration Square Mississauga. Main stage portion will start at 6 p.m. Be sure to catch it.