Listening to the radio in the UAE comes with its fair share of radio ad spots – and chances are you’ve heard the expressive voice of Chanda Miyanda aka Call Me Vocal in at least one advertisement.
The talented voiceover artist has also lent his voice to numerous other projects from official announcements to advertisements to creative projects and everything in between.
In fact, you’ve probably heard him in one of his more memorable projects – where Marvel Comics teamed up with SuperSport to form Super Rugby:
It wasn’t a career that Chanda intentionally embarked on, recalling: “This was accidental. When I first landed in the UAE in 2009 looking for work, I had limited time on my Visa, so I took the first job offer that came my way and that was as a Telephone Operator at a private clinic. Often when I answered the phone…there would be a long pause after I gave the greeting. And when I said hello again…there would be a “Oh…I thought it was a recorded message”.”
During his five-year tenure there, he noted that callers would remark that he had a voice for radio.
“I heard this so many times that I started to believe it. So, I would then treat every single call as an audition. One day, a person called in and after he made his appointment gave me his business card. I called him a week later and he had travelled. It would be 2 years later that he called again and I happened to pick up the phone. This time he gave me an appointment date and time to register my voice at twofour54’s database. That person was Hassan Ramli of E11 Entertainment, then Audio Production Supervisor at Twofour54,” Miyanda said.
Chanda reflected that when he started out, one main myth of voice acting was quickly dispelled: “I learnt on my first audition, that having a “nice voice” does not make you a professional voice over. Like many people, I thought you just show up and speak. Little did I know that there were many nuances such as learning how to deliver lines, understanding how and how not to use your voice, microphone technique etc. All of this became the proverbial “Finding My Voice” story, a journey I am appreciative of today.”
He laughed when recalling his first job, a 30 second Radio and Television Read announcing the first of Abu Dhabi’s World Class Jiu Jistu Championship in 2013.
“I thought I did great but years later with experience, I can hear myself trying too hard, over emphasizing, going too fast, not breathing. I still cringe when I listen to it!” he said, smiling.
One of his proudest career highlights was announcing Rihanna’s Diamonds World Tour in Abu Dhabi in 2013. However, initially, things didn’t go as smoothly as he had hoped.
“That’s because it was such a big deal and the client was in [the] studio at the time. I was nervous and I was overdoing it. I left the session knowing I didn’t do a good job,” he said.
“Hassan invited me over to his house to record again so I could be more comfortable. He then told me to warm up by acting like I was on the phone – the way he first heard me. So, I did the warm up that way and he said…done. I was like I thought this warm up. He never told me he was recording the whole time. That was the first time I believed that I could do this professionally. Belief is a huge part of this work,” he added.
The voiceover artist became reflective when asked about some of the stereotypes surrounding his field and some of the challenges he faced as part of his work.
“[One thing is] people expecting you to sound in person the way you sound in a recording. It’s voice acting so we are in some form giving a performance. Doesn’t mean we speak that way all the time,” he said, adding: “My biggest challenge was breaking out of my own stereotype. All my early jobs were as the Big Loud Announcer of Concerts and Promos so I approached every commercial like that. I didn’t think there was more to it than that. I overcame that when I realised that people liked my voice before I was a loud announcer so that means they would like me if I spoke normally.”
For those interesting in pursuing this passion, Miyanda advises: “Don’t rely on the sound of your voice alone. That’s only a part of it. The point is to get a feeling across, and that doesn’t happen just by changing your voice. Be comfortable reading in your natural voice.”
As for industry support in general, Chanda feels that there’s demand for talent but “I believe that there needs to be enough of something in order to regulate it. It doesn’t take long for people to jump in and support or jump on the bandwagon if something is trending. So, my take on that is to work towards making voice over a trend in the UAE.”
Things have changed since he embarked on his creative work; one of the biggest changes is a drop in the use of voice over work for promos.
“I believe it’s because the trend became more visual with words on screen and graphic design. I also noticed that clients now lean towards a more conversational/casual read rather than belting out words,” he explained.
Things shifted even further when the pandemic hit in 2020, forcing everyone and everything to pause and move in different directions.
“My Instagram page was born because of the pandemic as several business moved towards that. Instagram really opened up my world to other creators and clients. Animators who have brilliant videos they would like to present to their clients reach out to me and we get to collaborate which is really good. Being around other creatives keeps you creating,” Chanda said.
He further observed: “I think [things] shifted for the better. It took a pandemic to push people into taking the risks they were too comfortable to take when there wasn’t a pandemic threatening their job security. Remove security and people get creative.”
Chanda also noticed another interesting outcome of having everything shift to digital spaces: “The pandemic led more corporates to move online and online is a creative space. The creative restrictions that corporates abide by don’t stand a chance with the creative energy that is out there because online they are not just playing to their audience. They have to compete in a creative space so they became freer to explore other forms of expression to remain competitive. That’s good because they then solicit creatives or become creatives themselves.”
Visitors to his profile will also notice that he has listed Creative Artist and Lyricist. When Creativity Undefined asked about his additional work, Miyada replied: “I was always good with creative writing in school. Creative Artist comes from that and I use that skill in most of the ads I do. I wrote several of the ads on my Instagram. That love of creative writing channelled into rap lyrics. I identified as a rapper first. One day I got tired of rapping the choruses of my own rap songs and decided to hire a singer to sing the hook to mix things up. When I started to write in the voice of the singer, I couldn’t stop. The words just flowed. I was amazed at how easily I could write as if I was someone else. That’s how I wrote my first song called “We Will Fall”.”
Additional works can also be explored on his Soundcloud.
Looking back over everything that he’s done, Miyada noted that he’s grateful for every experience that’s come his way, from the highs to the lows to everything in between.
“My artistic journey in everything I did from music to voice over to creative writing really only flourished when I set to do it in my own. No restrictions on how to convey my thoughts. The indie community needs inspiration in the sense that several talents work full time jobs and don’t take the risk of entering an industry that doesn’t offer much security. It takes a few to show that it can be done but who is going to do it. Therein lies the opportunity,” he said, smiling.
These days, Chanda is content to focus on his work, including some fun behind-the-scenes glimpses into his sessions that chart his process from when his first hits record to its final version as a fully produced commercial.
As we wrap up our interview, Miyada is happy to share one more philosophical reflection now that 2021 is finally underway: “I have this gut feeling that something momentous is occurring with the world. A paradigm-shift. And what you do during this period will determine which side you fall on later on.”