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Nikhita Gandhi: ‘Qafirana is a special song for me and Raabta was one of the most scary moments in my career’

Kolkata girl Nikhita Gandhi talks about her month-long tour across the country that started in Jiagunj

Sameer Salunkhe Calcutta Published 11.01.23, 10:29 AM
Nikhita Gandhi

Nikhita Gandhi @nikhitagandhiofficial/Instagram

Singer Nikhita Gandhi has started 2023 on a high with a tour across multiple cities in India. The tour kickstarted in her hometown Kolkata and will end in Goa. Armaan Malik, Farhan Akhtar and Naezy are also part of this tour. Nikhita — known for hits like Qafirana, Burj Khalifa, Raabta and Jugnu — opens up about the tour, her music, Kolkata and plans to release her album in 2023.

Tell us about your tour…


Nikhita Gandhi: I am part of one tour, which is Yaari Jam Fest. There’s another tour that Armaan Malik and I kickstarted in Indore. We have sung the theme song of Yaari Jam too. We were the first two artists on the tour.

My new year began with a show (on January 5) in Jiaganj, outside Kolkata, which is Arijit Singh’s hometown. It was pretty incredible and one of the most massive shows that I have ever done. The whole town was there. What a fabulous and super note to start the year on. And I am looking forward to this whole month because there are many public shows.

You started the tour in your hometown. Please shed some light on the connection between you, music and Kolkata.

Nikhita Gandhi: Kolkata and music are very symbiotic because every Kolkata — especially Bong — kid learns music and dance. It is a very integral part of our culture. I learnt Hindusthani music and Odissi as a kid.

There’s always a place to showcase your talent and constantly hone your skills in dance and music. I always had dance and music in my life. I never expected it to become my profession but it is something that I always did. I was in a band in my school and college. I considered it to be my passion. Now it has become my profession and I am overjoyed to do this for a living.

You are a composer too. What kind of music do you like to make?

Nikhita Gandhi: I listen to and make a lot of soul-pop R&B-inspired music and that is what I sing too. I enjoy all kinds of music. In my independent career, I have released a reinterpretation of a bhajan, and I have done a semi-classical Bengali album too. To me, music isn’t really definable. Every phase has its own story.

You sing in multiple music industries, from Hindi and Bengali to Tamil and Telugu. Have you noticed any drastic difference between the way all these music industries function?

Nikhita Gandhi: Generally, the way the industry is structured in the South is different from the way it is in Bollywood. In the South, a very specific place is kept in people’s hearts for their composers and singers. I think Bollywood is extremely actor-centric.

There are some cool changes happening, too, because of that. Because of the detachment of music from films, a lot of artists are emerging as artists and not as only playback singers. There’s no Bollywood attachment to them, which I think is incredible. Then you tell your own story and have your own music. It is not confined to any specific movie. It’s more like the West. It’s great that musicians have their own narrative now.

What is your take on the remix trend in Bollywood?

Nikhita Gandhi: I have sung a few remixes or different versions of a song. My first Bollywood remix was the Raabta (2017) title track, which was a new version of the Raabta song from Agent Vinod (2012). I think this has been happening for a long time. It’s just that suddenly we are talking about it. If a remix is done right, it’s a good thing. It’s a cool feeling as an artist, especially when your audience is a mixed bag of parents and children. They all know the song in their own way. If your objective is to pay homage to a song that you have grown up listening to and you love, then I think it always turns out to be something good.

What is your most cherished experience of working on a song?

Nikhita Gandhi: Qafirana from Kedarnath (2018) is really high on that list. It’s a special song for me. It’s a beautiful composition and it is one of my favourite recorded songs. There’s another song called Ghar from When Harry Met Sejal (2017), which I absolutely rank high in my repertoire. Every song has a story.

One of the most exciting and scary moments in my career was Raabta. It was my first song and I wasn’t even living in Mumbai back then. I had sung two-three drafts of it because they kept changing the arrangement. Pritamda (composer) called me when I was in Kolkata and said, ‘Can you come here and stay here till the song releases? Because we’re trying out something.’

So, I just went there and I stayed with a friend for a week till the song came out. I had zero expectations from that song because I was new and had never sung for Bollywood. But when the song was released in my voice, it was a defining moment for me. It was also the moment when I thought maybe I should move to Mumbai.

Do you get to visit Kolkata more often? Do you have a to-do list when you are in the city?

Nikhita Gandhi: I roam in Kolkata bindaas. When people recognise me, I am happy to take a picture with them. I have no qualms about that. Every time I go to Kolkata, I have traditions of sorts… I have to stop for bhanrer cha whether it’s a one-day or a five-day trip. Usually, I go to Balwant Singh’s dhaba. Now, they know me. The last time I went there, they were playing Burj Khalifa (from Laxmii, 2020). I have made many people try Doodh Cola. Most of them loved it. Usually, the checklist is around food. And most of them are homemade delicacies.

What will we get to listen to from you in 2023?

Nikhita Gandhi: I have a few more singles coming up. There will be some exciting playback songs as well. I will be dropping a single next month. After the tour is over, I am excited to finish my album. I was working on it during the lockdown but then it sort of fizzled out. So, it’s on my priority list to complete the album.

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