From being a child prodigy to being a Sangeet Visharad and an All India Radio artist as a teenager, to performing on a national stage that served as the launching platform for many playback singers in Bollywood, to giving it all up to pursue a career in Architecture and shaping the skylines of cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and Toronto for more than 22 years, to restarting her music by composing, singing and producing two full length music albums while still working full time in Architecture, to finally giving the lucrative career in Architecture up to dedicate full attention to music, and re-establishing herself as a leading, critically acclaimed award winning World-musician in the south Asian genre, to producing ‘Parallels’, her third album that stayed at top 3 spots on Roots Music Report World charts for 20 straight weeks, Indo-Canadian – Vandana Vishwas is a musician par excellence who has no contemporary parallel.
Born in Lucknow, the historic north Indian city known for its arts & culture and raised in the pristine Chhattisgarh province of central India, Vandana was a prodigal singer since the age of four singing extremely complex melodies with ease, prompting her parents to enroll her for Indian-classical vocal lessons. She began learning from Pandit Parashuram Sharma at age five, and later from Mrs. Vimala Soni. She earned a ‘Sangeet Visharad’ (a bachelor’s degree in Indian classical music) by the time she was sixteen. By then Vandana was already a contract artist with All India Radio and had started composing her own original music. She completed her regular schooling in tandem within this time. All this despite an unfortunate medical negligence in her infancy that resulted in a lifelong condition of permanent partial immobility and chronic and acute pain for her.
Over the course of the next five years spent earning her bachelor’s degree in architectureand for a few years thereafter, Vandana was a contract artist with All India Radio for around ten years, where she sang songs composed by herself and her mentor Mr. D.K. Gandhe. During one such recording session, she was heard by renowned Ghazal maestro brothers Ustaad Ahmed and Mohammed Hussain. They were so impressed by her voice that they took her under their tutelage and taught her the intricacies of ghazal singing. Learning the romantic and expressive style of rendering Ghazals from Mr. Gandhe and Hussain brothers shaped her unique vocal style.
Shortly after her graduation in architecture, Vandana was invited and performed on the Indian National Television channel Doordarshan and at the prestigious Acharya Brihaspati Sammelan conducted by Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai, the stage where many legendary Indian artists have performed early in their career. However, finding it difficult to cope up with physically demanding lifestyle of Mumbai given her physical challenges, Vandana chose to pursue a caree in architecture instead, moving to Dubai with her college mate-turned-husband-turned music co-producer, Vishwas Thoke, where they spent five years putting together skyscrapers and without much music in her life.
However, things started changing when the couple immigrated to Toronto, Canada, where the musical diversity of the vibrant city rekindled her passion for music and she decided to make her own music again. Her debut self-composed and produced album Meera-The Lover (2009) based on legendary 16th century Indian poet queen Meera Bai, created wide ranging ripples in Canadian & US World Music circles through rave reviews from leading music critics and some much coveted awards, and her sophomore album Monologues (2013), took musical creativity to a new level by redefining the treatment of traditional south Asian song forms such as Ghazals, Nazms, Geet & Thumri with some interesting western influences. Like the first one, this album was also co-produced by Vandana Vishwas and Vishwas Thoke, and was released in India by Worldwide Records in February 2013, launched in Mumbai by legendary Indian playback singer Suresh Wadkar.
In 2014, Vandana composed, sung and produced the theme track for the Hindi novel Samarsiddha written by UK novelist Sandeep Nayyar, published by Penguin India in July 2014.
Within the short span of time that she restarted her music in Canada, Vandana has won the Akademia Awards, silver medal at Global Music Awards, Toronto Independent Music Award 2016, ICACI Woman Hero Award 2015, Marty Award 2012, US Indies 2011 Vox-Pop Award, 2010 Toronto Best World CD Award by TEM and has been a nominee and honourable mention holder at several Canadian and US awards such as the Canadian Indies 2010, Toronto Independent Music Awards 2010 and 2014 and the much coveted K.M. Hunter award for music by Ontario Arts Council.
Songs from her albums have consistently debuted at Top 10 in diverse community FMs all over Canada and stayed there for weeks. She has been featured by leading Indian, US and Canadian newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations despite being an independent artist with no label or artist manager or booking agent working for her. Through word of mouth and sheer merit, she got handpicked for prestigious events such as the Toronto Harbourfront Centre Summer Festival Hot Spot 2010, Masala Mehndi Masti 2009, Culture days, Mississauga 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014, Latin-Afro-South Asian Cultural concert by LCCA Toronto, Candian National Exhibition (CNE) 2014, Small World Music South Asian Series 2014, Festival des Traditions du Monde de Sherbrooke 2014, Voices of Asia concert by Small World Music, Sounds of India concert by Culture Bridge Initiative, Newmarket, ON, Canada, LCCA CANORAA’s 4 Worlds Festival, Toronto, Toronto Garlic Festival and the numerous community concerts for organizations such as Sacred Arts & Music Alliance (SAMA) etc.
With the release of Parallels, her third full length album in 2016, the globe is again treated to this enigmatic voice and gets to delight in its treasures. Right on it’s debut for airplay, Parallels topped the RMR (Root Music Report) World charts and stayed there for four weeks in a row and then became a regular in the charts for 17 straight weeks, never dropping below 3rd spot. It also debuted at the CMJ (College Media Journal) New World charts peaking at No. 9. In Canada, the album topped the Earshot National International charts January 2017, frequently featuring in top world charts in diverse community and college FM stations.
Apart from featuring in top spots on radio charts, within less than a month since its debut, Parallels has already fetched Vandana the Toronto Independent Music award 2016, silver medal at Global Music Awards through the song ‘Mai Beqaid (Flamenco)’ in World Music and Female Vocalist categories and recently the Akademia Awards January 2017 for best World Beat Album and Best world Beat Music Video, again for the song ‘Mai Beqaid (Flamenco)’.
Often compared with the legendary Bollywood sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle by her admirers because of her mesmerizing crystalline voice and flawless purity of notes, as a composer, Vandana is also known for her bold experiments involving collaboration of south Asian music with unlikely genres, that are often genre bending.
Vandana’s current projects include lending her musical and vocal skills to arts installation project Our Temple of Madness : The Summoning in Nelson, BC, Canada, singing for Delhi based musician Alok Sahdev for his devotional song ‘Prem Jo Anant Ho Gaya’, and a collaboration project with Manipuri music director Barun Okram for his song ‘Malangba’.
Apart from these, Vandana has already started working on her fourth full length studio album that will feature more interesting collaborations with World genres of music.
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