Born and raised in India, settled in Canada, Vandana Vishwas is an architect by profession and a musician by passion. She is formally trained in North Indian classical vocal music but specializes in composing and singing expressive Sugam-Sangeet (Easy Listening Music) comprising south-Asian song forms such as Ghazals, Nazms, Geet, light Thumris etc.. Although blessed with a divine gift of musical creativity and a mesmerizing voice since early childhood, Vandana has had to overcome serious physical challenges caused by a painful permanent injury to her hip joint in an unfortunate medical negligence right after she was born.
Vandana has been lauded by the critics for her expressive & crystalline voice (Errol Nazareth, Toronto Sun), simplicity, sincerity & crisp diction (Savia Rajgopal, Mybindi.com), gently gliding entrancing vocals (Andrew Frey, Maximum Ink Music Magazine), tenderness towards melody and lyrics (John Goddard, The Toronto Star)and many other qualities by various other reviewers and critics. 'It's almost as if Vandana was the second coming of Lata…' (Alastair Johnston, muzikifan.com).
Leading legendary musicians have been fascinated with her singing. 'Vandana's voice is a musical treat' says Mr. Sohail Rana, the legendary composer of timeless classics such as 'Aaj jaane kee zid na karo…' and 'Mujhe tum bazar se gira to rah ho…'. 'It is her persistence and dedicated pursuit of music that have made Vandana evolve into a versatile singer with all the finer nuances, melody and sweet fragrance of Indian music…' say the famous ghazalist brother duo Ustaad Ahmed and Mohammed Hussain.
Vandana’s singing talent was recognized very early when she sang complex melodies with ease as a four-year old, prompting her parents to enrol her into a renowned institute for Indian classical music, and she started learning from Pandit Parashuram Sharma at age just past 5, and later from Mrs. Vimal Soni. Despite an unfortunate four year break in her musical training due to severe tonsillitis, she earned a ‘Sangeet Visharad’ (the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in Indian classical music) from ABGMM by the time she was sixteen. Vandana had already started composing music by then. She completed her regular schooling in tandem within this time.
Over the course of the next five years spent earning her bachelor’s degree in architecture and for a few years thereafter, Vandana was a contract artist with All India Radio for about 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 ghazalist 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 qualities of ghazal singing from Mr. Gandhe and Hussain brothers shaped her unique vocal style.
Shortly after her graduation in architecture, Vandana got invited and performed on the Indian national TV 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. Although she had dreamt of singing for Bollywood movies as a child, Vandana consciously chose not to pursue that dream because the impossibly demanding life of the bustling city of Mumbai made it a difficult place to survive given her physical limitations at that time. Instead, she chose to focus her attention to architecture and moved to Dubai with her college mate - turned husband - turned music co-producer Vishwas Thoke, where she spent good five years putting together skyscrapers and without much music in her life.
However, things started changing when the couple immigrated to Toronto, Canada, and promptly got employed in decent architectural practices, with Vandana being employed with one of the oldest and largest architectural consultancies in Canada, where she still works. "Being interested in music, we used to do frequent rounds of the many music festivals and concerts in Toronto. ‘You can also do something with your music’ – I would repeatedly tell Vandana…", says Vishwas, her husband, whose first name she uses as her last name. "Fed up with my constant nagging, Vandana decided to restart music by composing new songs and decided to cut her first music album." Vishwas adds.
Her debut music album ‘Meera-The Lover…’ released in 2009, created wide ranging ripples in Canadian & US World Music circles through rave reviews from leading music critics and some much coveted awards such as the Vox-Pop award for World Traditional Song of the year at US Indies (IMA) 2011, Mississauga Arts Council's Martty Award for Established Performing Arts 2012 and Toronto Best World CD award by Toronto Exclusive Magazine. She was also nominated for leading Canadian awards such as the Canadian Indies 2010 alongside Grammy winning Alex Cuba and Juno Laureates Sultans of Strings, Toronto Independent Music Awards alongside leading World Music band Jaffa Road and the much coveted K.M. Hunter award for music by Ontario Arts Council. Songs from the album debuted at Top 10 in diverse community FMs all over Canada and stayed there for weeks. She was featured by leading 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 Takes 2 and 3, Mississauga 2011 & 2012, Latin-Afro-South Asian Cultural concert by LCCA Toronto and the numerous community concerts for organizations such as Sacred Arts & Music Alliance (SAMA) etc.
The songs from her debut album instantly connected not only with south Asian audience hungry for good music for a long time, but also with the wider ‘World Music’ audience who got a rare insight into authentic Indian music through Vandana’s songs. In July of 2012, the album was taken up for distribution by a major record label in India.
Vandana also sings in many other south Asian languages such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Marathi, Bangla etc. apart from her mother tongue Hindi/Urdu.
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 Beau 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 promises to be a treat for lovers of music and poetry alike. Like the first one, this album is also co-produced by Vandana and her husband.