Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Vandana Vishwas, one of the leading exponents of South Asian Music in North America. Vandana specializes in composing, arranging and singing a sub-genre of Indian music comprising expressive song forms such as Ghazals, Bhajans, Geet and Thumri. In my opinion, this girl can sing anything with ease :).
I am happy to say that Vandana ji has now become a good friend and sister to me. If you can ever imagine an early morning dew drop, or a clear blue sky, or the essence of child’s smile, you would not be too far in experiencing the impact that Vandana ji’s voice has on the listener. An individual who has had a very rigorous training in the musical arena, brings with her a softness, a gentleness, and an unwavering class and sophistication in her singing. I am often impressed with her “tyaari” (preparation) and dedication to reyaaz (discipline of practice)
Vandana was born in the historical city of Lucknow in north India, a place known for its rich artistic heritage. By the time she was barely 16, she had already earned a Sangeet Visharad, the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Indian classical vocal music. Over the course of the next five years, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Architecture but also continued to win every local and regional vocal competition. Vandana was a contract artist with All India Radio where she sang songs composed by her and her mentor Mr. D.K. Gandhe. According to her, her unique vocal expressive style is a result of her hard work and training under Shri D.K. Gandhe.
During one of her All India Radio recording sessions, she was heard by renowned ghazal maestros Ustaad Ahmed and Mohammed Hussain who were impressed by her voice and they too shared with her the intricacies of ghazal singing.
When you meet Vandana, you will be greeted by someone who is humble, inviting, and just plainly a genuine individual. Never once does one feel a “separateness” from her, whether you are just sitting and chilling over a cup of tea, or whether you are fortunate enough to be listening to her sing. I firmly believe it is her authentic nature which allows her to sing with such elegance and class. Indeed, when you hear her, something pierces you right in the heart…right within your being…right within the realm of your spirit.
I came to know that in an unfortunate twist of fate, just two days after Vandana’s birth, a careless nurse poked her with a contaminated syringe, causing permanent septic arthritis and virtual immobility of her left hip joint. This resulted in a chronic condition with frequent acute pain. I now have even more respect for this individual and artist. Never once in my meetings with Vandana ji have I seen this physical challenge inhibit her in any way. On the contrary, she has proved time and time again, that with courage, persistence, dedication, ambition and keeping a positive outlook, anything is possible.
Her accolades are many, and too extensive to mention here. However, it is important and an honor for me to fill you in on some of her awards. She is the winner of the the Vox-Pop award for World Traditional Song of the year at the 10th US Independent Music Awards 2011 (IMA) and Toronto Best World CD Award by Toronto Exclusive Magazine 2010.
The international success and critical acclaim of Vandana’s debut CD ‘Meera – The Lover…’, released in 2009, has catapulted Vandana into the north American World Music scene, where within a very short time, she has carved a niche for herself. Apart from winning these awards, Vandana has been nominated for several other awards such as the Canadian Indies 2010, TIMA (Toronto Independent Music Awards) 2010, Marty Awards 2010 by Mississauga Arts Council (honourable mention) and 2011, K.M. Hunter award for music by Ontario Arts Council 2011, to name a few.
Now she has come up with her sophomore music album ‘Monologues’, that takes 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. With her husband Vishwas penning down seven of the nine songs in the CD and the other two being written by ghazal immortals Jigar Muradabadi and Mirza Ghalib, the album is a treat for lovers of Indian music and poetry alike. Like the first one, this album is also co-produced by Vandana and Vishwas. The CD was released in Canada in January 2013 and an Indian launch followed in Mumbai by hands of legendary Indian singer Suresh Wadkar.
As is evident, I cannot give justice to Vandana in a short blog entry. Suffice is to say, she is here, and she is making an impact with her music and voice globally. Together, Vandana and Vishwas are the perfect compliment for each other. I have no doubt, this is just the beginning…if you have not had a chance to experience a live performance by Vandana ji….what are you waiting for?! It will be an experience that will leave you yearning for more and a voice that will pierce your heart….
For more information, check out: www.vandanavishwas.com