Tag Archives: Sheila Chandra

Artist profiles: Sheila Chandra

Sheila Chandra

Singing at her family home at age 12, Sheila Chandra discovered her voice – an instrument which has beguiled and mesmerized her audiences around the world ever since.

Born in London to a family of East Indian ancestry, Chandra resolved herself at an early age to be a singer and spent countless hours honing her voice a labor of love. But unsure how to break into the music business Chandra was ready when the chance came her way.

That chance came when Steve Coe, a writer and record producer was forming a new band as an outlet for his increasingly East Indian-influenced music. He came across an audition tape by Chandra and knew immediately that he had found his singer for the group Monsoon.

Monsoon’s first single, Ever So Lonely a song written around a raga used newly available production techniques to create a groundbreaking modern pop fusion sound. The single became a top ten hit with a quarter million sales worldwide. Yet six months later Chandra walked away from her blossoming success frustrated by a lack of artistic freedom. She came to the independent cottage industry-style label Indipop to explore her musical creativity and to learn the craft of composition.

Free to focus on her art, Chandra entered a remarkable and prolific two years with Indipop. Her solo albums for the label chronicle a profound transformation in the quality and depth of her work both as a singer and as a composer. Her subsequent years with Real World Records created another truly unique sound — forever setting a new standard in world music.

Originally released in 1984, Quiet was Chandra’s second solo album for Indipop and marked her debut as a composer. For the first time she faced the ‘blank page’ – the potentially most powerful reflector of the human soul. “I was terrified at the necessity of committing to paper or vinyl what I really thought or felt musically – I still am sometimes. I have since grown to deeply value the mental freedoms possible in the pure world of imagination that composing led me into. In it I open any social cultural or material restrictions. I can think thoughts I was perhaps unable to think of before.”

Quiet is the recording where that process began. Chandra along with a team of writers approached the album as a platform for her musical evolution and as a showcase for the possibilities she was developing as a composer and for her voice. Her goal was to force herself into a new territory to learn as a musician and writer by discovering obscure musical methods structures and elements.

Consequently, Quiet has no lyrics, the tracks untitled and the music explores a structural world of cyclic riffs and as many Eastern and Western tones and textures as Chandra could vocally bring to the work.

The album has a very different approach, acting as a prelude to Chandra’s innovative work on the Real World label. The music has strong melodies and an Indian influence but there are no dance floor drums or Indian percussion.

Originally released in 1990, Roots and Wings was written by Chandra after a four year sabbatical. During those years Chandra thought seriously about what constitutes an artist not only in terms of skill and imagination but also in terms of mastery of the self and mental independence.

Chandra’s writing also evolved with her heightened sense of artistic creativity. Already incorporating drones into her work Chandra discovered their multi-harmonics were irresistible backdrops to her solo voice. “Drones are magical things in terms of what they will allow me to do structurally psychologically and creatively.”

Roots and Wings contains the seeds of Chandra’s a cappella/solo voice style brought to the forefront on her groundbreaking Real World albums Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices and The Zen Kiss. The album also led Chandra on a series of small but significant steps to finding gateways between vocal cultures within the context of a single melodic line — a style which has since set her apart as one of the most influential and innovative world music masters.

In 2009, Chandra began experiencing symptoms of what was eventually diagnosed as burning mouth syndrome, as a result of which she is unable to sing, speak, laugh or cry without suffering intense pain. As a result of her illness Chandra retired from music. She turned her attention to writing self-help books.


Out On My Own (1984)
Quiet (1984)
The Struggle (1985)
Nada Brahma (Indipop 1985)
Roots And Wings (Indipop 1989)
Silk 1983 – 199 (1991 – a best of album)
Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices (Realworld/USA: Caroline Records, 1992)
The Zen Kiss (Realworld/USA: Caroline Records, 1994)
ABoneCroneDrone (Realworld/USA: Caroline Records, 1996)
Monsoon (Mercury 1995)
This Sentence is True (Shakti/Narada, 2001)
Indipop Retrospective (Narada, 2003)
Imagined Village (2007)


Real World Gold, Real World Records to Reissue 10 Classic World Music Albums

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Mustt Mustt

Iconic world music label Real World Records announced a new initiative called Real World Gold. The project focuses on reissues of essential recordings that have been unavailable for a number of years. The series will deliver the reissued albums in batches of ten. The first installment of the series, scheduled for release in Europe on May 21st, ranges from recordings by crucial Real World artists (musicians like the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Afro Celt Sound System, Sheila Chandra and the Blind Boys of Alabama) to those of lesser celebrated partnerships, such as Lama Gyurme and Jean-Philippe Rykiel.

There are some wonderful albums in the catalog that still haven’t gone out as far in the world as we’d like them to,” says Real World Records founder Peter Gabriel. “I think there’s a different generation being exposed to world music now. We hope this will be an opportunity for the older listener to check out this music – rediscover old gems – and maybe first time discoveries for the younger folk!

First set of releases:

Afro Celt Sound System – ‘Volume 1: Sound Magic‘ (CDRWG61)
Afro Celt Sound System – ‘Volume 2: Release‘ (CDRWG76)
The Blind Boys Of Alabama – ‘Higher Ground‘ (CDRWG107)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – ‘Mustt Mustt‘ (CDRWG15)
Sheila Chandra – ‘Moonsung: A Real World Retrospective‘ (CDRWG77)
Papa Wemba – ‘Emotion‘ (CDRWG52)
Geoffrey Oryema – ‘Exile’ (CDRWG14)
Lama Gyurme & Jean-Philippe Rykiel – ‘Rain Of Blessings: Vajra Chants‘ (CDRWG85)
The Drummers of Burundi – ‘Live at Real World‘ (RWMGI)
The Imagined Village – ‘The Imagined Village‘ (CDRWG147)


Daring English Folk

Various Artists – The Imagined Village

Various Artists – The Imagined Village (Real World Records, 2008)

Lining up the likes of Simon Emmerson, Billy Bragg, Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, Benjamin Zephaniah, Chris Wood, Paul Weller, Sheila Chandra, The Gloworms, Tiger Moth, TransGlobal Underground, Tunng, Johnny Kalsi and The Copper Family seems like a mere fantasy, but that is exactly what The Imagined Village is all about. Daring to re-imagine, break down and remake English folk music, The Imagined Village careens headlong and hell bent on dragging traditional tunes through the modern streets of England, picking up the current flavors and textures of today’s English musicians. Now if you are a folk purist, this might not be the CD for you, but if you’re willing to jump on the genre bending, rip-roaring ride through the modern soundscape of English folk, then be prepared The Imagined Village will knock your socks off.

The Imagined Village is proof that good things happen when great musicians are left to their own devices. Opening with “John Barleycorn,” The Imagined Village band sets this traditional English tune ablaze with Martin Carthy on acoustic guitar, Paul Weller on electric guitar, Eliza Carthy on fiddle, Nigel Eaton on hurdy gurdy, and Simon Emmerson on cittern. Dipping into the exoticism of Rastafarian writer and poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the extravagant richness of Trans-Global Underground, the dub retelling of “Tam Lyn” is darkly exhilarating with guitars, bouzouki, sitar and some sizzling programming. The edgy “Death and the Maiden” with Tunng and the thrilling “Cold Haily Rainy Night” with Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Chris Wood, The Young Coppers and TransGlobal Underground do more than bend these tunes – they turn them inside out!

The CD just gets better with “The Welcome Sailor,” with the lovely vocals of Sheila Chandra and “Acres of Ground,” with its folksy swing punctuated by tabla and dhol drum by Johnny Kalsi. “Hard Times of Old England” with Billy Bragg, The Young Coppers, Eliza Carthy and Simon Emmerson and “Kit Whites I & II” with The Gloworms are infectiously wonderful. The bright and sassy “Slow on the Uptake” is a hair raising roundhouse slap of pure delight with Tiger Moth. “’Ouses, ‘Ouses, ‘Ouses” with vocals by John Copper and Sheila Chandra against a sea of guitar, cello, violin, bass, Northumbrian pipes, nickel harp, drones and keyboards is a precious piece of storytelling wrapped in a compelling composition that brings the past into the futures.

I have to admit that I’m partial to these “what if” collaborations with musicians scattered across the musical map. Songs on these type of collaborations tend to be fully realized and fully executed, some tracks stretching longer than the average MBA record exec would allow. There is also the collaborative spirit that seems to shine through on these types of recording, so that the listener can actually feel the expansive joy come through in the musicianship. The Imagined Village certainly possesses that heady mix of stellar musicianship and free flowing fusion of ideas and genres. The Imagined Village isn’t just about retelling or remaking English folk – it’s about glorious reinvention.

Buy the CD:


Sheila Chandra’s Indipop Retrospective

Sheila Chandra – The Indipop Retrospective

Sheila Chandra

The Indipop Retrospective (Narada)

At age sixteen, East Indian-Irish actress and pop singer, Sheila Chandra embarked on what would turn out to be an innovative music career. Before anyone became acquainted with the world music genre, producer/writer Steve Coe invited Chandra to join his Asian-fusion group Monsoon.

Chandra scored a top ten hit with Ever So Lonely, despite the fact that raga rock was considered passé at that time. Chandra left her pop leanings behind and she began exploring her Indian heritage. She signed on with Indipop, a label that Steve Coe (her future husband) formed and she began a series of experimental albums.

Her early albums drew their inspiration from Indian raga and mantras in which Chandra’s effervescent vocals draped over synthesizer drone, sitar and tabla beats. Eleven out of the 12 tracks on this retrospective appeared on previous Indipop recordings including, Quiet (1984), Nada Brahma (1985), Out on My Own (1984), The Struggle (1985), Roots and Wings (1990), This Sentence Is True (2001) and the unreleased track, Crescent Silver Scythe (2003).

The CD doesn’t come off as a greatest hits album and a few of the tracks hardly seem accessible unless you find ambient music with dissonant overtones accessible. Song of the Banshee portrays mysticism and focuses on Chandra’s immaculate vocals. Nada Brahma, Prema Shanti, Dharma, Satya and Om Shanti Om set sacred chants to exotic drone while One, Quiet 3 and Quiet 9 fit into the John Cage school of experimental music. This proves that music sung in a minor key can transcend gloom when sung by a talented and innovative vocalist. Mecca and Mien fall into darker territory while Village Girl is a clever song with pop sensibility.

Twenty years after Chandra embarked on her recording career and influenced the current Asian-fusion scene in the UK, she still experiments with new sounds, often stretching beyond previous musical boundaries. She is a formidable talent and one I am sure many vocalists admire. However, this retrospective CD doesn’t excite me. Perhaps it is one of those CD’s that grows on you over time. After all, Chandra is ahead of her time and many of us are catching up to the music she recorded a decade or two ago. At least she can’t be accused of selling out or not following her heart.

This archival review by Patty-Lynne Herlevi formerly appeared on Cranky Crow World Music.

Buy The Indipop Retrospective.


Folk Britannia: Daughters of Albion

June Tabor


London, UK – Folk Britannia continues with Daughters of Albion,
featuring June Tabor, Norma Waterson, Eliza Carthy, Kathryn Williams, Sheila Chandra & Lou Rhodes. Folk Britannia is a festival focusing on the rich and compelling history of traditional music of the UK. The concert will be held February3, 2006 at 19:30
at Barbican Hall.

Daughters of Albion brings together some of England’s finest female folk artists and contemporary singer-songwriters.
Connected by a strong sense of place, a certain wit and singularity of voice, these ’Daughters of Albion’ sing songs of experience, shot through with a deliciously dark seam of melancholy.

The evening features an imaginative set-list that puts ancient English folk ballads alongside West Country trip-hop, 21st century R&B and songs from beloved singer/songwriters, including Sandy Denny, Lal Waterson, Kirsty MacColl, Anne Briggs, Vashti Bunyan and Kate Bush.

MD + arrangements by Kate St John

Produced by the Barbican in association with Free Will Productions and BBC Four

First commissioned by Cork 2005.



Palm World Voices Sets Out on the Right Path

Vedic Path

Pioneering Producer Chris Blackwell (who helped make an international star of Bob Marley years ago) recently cemented a new partnership between his own Palm Pictures label and Universal Music Enterprises. The resulting collaboration, Palm World Voices, has taken on an ambitious first project- a combination CD and DVD set celebrating the sounds and visions of India. And while such a musically and culturally rich place can hardly be summed up in one neat package, Blackwell and Universal have succeeded in creating something quite stunning here.

Vedic Path (named for the course upon which personal and universal existence move along in a cyclic manner according to Hindu tradition) aims to be both educational and entertaining. To that end, the liner notes are extensive and informational without being stuffy and a detailed illustrated map provided by no less an authority than the National Geographic Society is included.

Not knowing as much as I ought to about India, I found it helpful to bone up with the liner notes and map before moving on to the music. Ah yes, the music- a very strong selection it is, ranging from the traditional stylings of familiar folk like Ravi Shankar to more fusion-minded stuff that brings in non-Indians like Dissidenten and John Wubbenhorst alongside such greats as . R. Rahman, Asha Bhosle and Sheila Chandra.

The DVD includes the same tracks as the CD, only this time with striking visuals of scenic vistas, celebrations on various scales, religious ceremonies, people going about their everyday life and more. A lot of ground is covered, and though it’s clear that no one is looking to ignore the fact that India remains beset by poverty and other ills, this admirable box set triumphs in projecting an uplifting, multifaceted picture of a country with a fascinating past and present that’s reflected in the music and spirit of its people and its influence on the world.

Buy Vedic Path


Chill out

Compilasian, The World of Indipop
Compilasian, The World of Indipop

Compilasian, The World of Indipop (Narada World, 2003)

The release of Narada World’s Compilasian (The World of Indipop) comes as more of a sign of changes to come in the record industry than as the cutting edge music it boast.

For those readers not aware of the Indipop label, it is a cottage industry label created by producer Steve Coe who is also Sheila Chandra’s husband. Narada World recently licensed Indipop catalogue, including Sheila Chandra’s Indipop releases. And with the release of Compilasian, itself a compilation of unreleased tracks of the groups Monsoon, Sheila Chandra, The Ganges Orchestra, Jhalib and East West, comes with a piracy protection device, called Copy Control.

Only time will tell if this device actually puts more money in the hands of recording artists or acts as a trigger for more paranoia in the world.

The Copy Control actually comes with its own player and a symbol reflective of the big brother that is watching you. This could cause discomfort in even the most innocent record buyer, especially coming at a time when people believe that the government too is watching their every move. And by the way, as a journalist, I am here to get the word out on musicians and I do not condone piracy. However, I will also say that there is too much fear in the world and I am disappointed that so many establishments succumb to fear instead of spreading love on the planet. Trust is a derivative of love.

Protection and security are derivatives of fear (a gentle reminder).Now that I have released my reservations for this technology, I will get on with the review of this compilation.

According to the CD liner notes, Steve Coe, small, but influential label has enjoyed three decades of fun and independence while introducing the world to its most popular vocalist, Sheila Chandra. Indipop receives credit for being the forerunner of the Asian fusion music fostered in the UK.

Steve and the musicians who recorded on his projects modernized Indian music so that Western ears could relate to it and Western feet could dance to it. However, having grown up in an extremely mainstream community where I heard and appreciated Ravi Shankar’s ragas it’s difficult for me to understand why anyone would need to modernize Indian music.

Fortunately, the musicians on the recording also chose to explore new musical territory that married studio wizardry with the essence of Indian music. And these musicians have a lot of fun blazing musical trails and taking advantage of the liberation provided to them when working with a small and experimental label. And in fact, Chandra’s innovative songwriting and lush vocals matured out of these experiments.

The tracks feel more like a musical laboratory than actual songs. Phrases are often repeated similar to mantras, on the track, Strange Minaret, Sheila sings backwards recalling the Beatles White album. Outtakes for Crescent Silver Scythe and Ever So Lonely have been rehashed and a few other surprises crop up on the compilation. 11 (a number with spiritual inclinations that comes up a lot in my life), provides nature sounds, a moody organ and Sheila’s lovely vocals.

In the end, Compilasian will take its listeners on an unusual inner journey, complete with a soundtrack that promises to expand frontiers.

Buy Compilasian, The World of Indipop


Sheila Chandra’s Indipop Retrospective

Sheila Chandra – The Indipop Retrospective

Sheila Chandra

The Indipop Retrospective (Narada, 2003)

There’s no great hardship in reviewing a Sheila Chandra CD – it’s just a simple matter of slipping the CD in the player and allowing the waves of this miraculous voice to flow over you.

The latest from Ms Chandra is a compilation of previous recordings on Indipop Records on Narada World entitled The Indipop Retrospective. Anyone familiar with the British Indipop label will recognize her as one of its leaders. The compilation draws from such albums as Roots and Wings, Quiet and Out On My Own. Rich workings are the basis for this CD with multicultural influences from the Celtic, Indian raga and drone and pure pop.

In the opening track, “Lament of the McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee,” Ms Chandra’s voice, Enya-esque, drifts out of the mist with an unmistakable Indian flair. Soulful expressions lacing tracks “One” and “Om Shanti Om” surprise and can cause the tiny hairs to rise on the back of your neck they’re so good. It’s on tracks like “This” and “Prema, Shanti, Dharma, Satya” that Chandra’s voice flies and takes the listener along. “Village Girl” and “Crescent Silver Scythe” are the pure pop pieces of this collection, and though not my favorite, are very good. Also featured on the compilation is “Mien,” that revolves around a speech Ms Chandra gave in 1991 in Khazak at a music festival.

Some listeners might find some songs over-produced, but certainly not enough to detract from the beauty of Ms Chandra’s captivating voice. And, while I realize this is a compilation, extracting works from more 20 years in the business, there was no mention of the musicians or other vocalists in the liner notes. All in all, Sheila Chandra’s The Indipop Retrospective will delight old fans and earn her new ones.


Who Is this Sheila?

Sheila Chandra


Seth Jordan talks to Indian singer Sheila Chandra about Voice, Zen, Rhinitis & the English Countryside

That voice is back again. After a five year absence, the result of vocal health problems, Indian fusion pioneer Sheila Chandra has returned with an uncharacteristically edgy new album, This Sentence Is True (The Previous Sentence is False).

Born in South London to immigrant Indian parents, Chandra’s initial success came early, scoring a mainstream Top 10 hit, ‘Ever So Lonely’, in ’82, fronting the group Monsoon. Along with her husband/producer Steve Coe, she immediately embarked on a series of adventurous solo albums, charting new directions in vocal experimentation. Her trio of ground-breaking albums for Peter Gabriels’ Real World label in the early ‘90s, Weaving My Ancestor’s Voices, Zen Kiss, and AboneCroneDrone, solidified her growing legion of fans worldwide.

An integral forerunner for both the Anglo-Indian Bhangra dance scene and the current success of England’s ‘Asian Underground’ movement, Chandra absence from the World music stage for the last few years has been noticeable.

From her secluded rural home in Somerset, she spoke to SETH JORDAN for “RHYTHMS”.

Sheila, having gained popularity with a Top 10 single at the age of 16, your career has already spanned two decades, yet you’re still only in your mid-thirties.

Yes I started very young. I think people assume I’m much older than I am. That first single was fairly radical at the time, part of a genre that hadn’t even been invented yet, Asian fusion, and even the term World music wasn’t around then. I don’t think anyone used that term until 1987, and we recorded Monsoon back in ’82.

Your early solo recordings were also heard as part of that early wave of ‘80s Ambient music. Was that the mood you were trying to invoke, the ethereal soundscape?

What fascinated me was what could be done combining Asian structures and the Western pop culture that I’d grown up with. How the voice could be used in that arena, how they could be married. The thing that was so apparent to me early on was that there were no teachers, no rulebook, no one to guide me through that
process. That’s why my first four solo albums between ’83 and ’85 were done so quickly. Four albums in two years is a very short succession, but I needed all that time in the studio, mapping out what could be done in this genre. That’s why they’re so experimental and why none of my solo work was ever singles-oriented.

Those four albums have all recently just been re-released. How does it feel to have people listening to your early experiments in retrospect?

It’s very nice. It’s lovely that people have now have the full story, the full chronology of what I’ve explored as an artist, because many have only heard my later work.

I started off with as little knowledge about Indian music as anyone else. Steve Coe wrote for Monsoon and introduced me to a lot of those structures; the way a drone supports the solo instrument, and the way fixed note structures can be used over the drone. From there on in we were learning together and it was a very steep learning curve. So when people hear my current work, it might sound very complex, but if they’ve followed my earlier work, then I don’t think it’s so daunting.

With “This Sentence Is True” and going back to “Zen Kiss”, there seems to be an undercurrent of Zen references in your titles. Are you a closet Zen practitioner or do you just enjoy the mental wordplay?

I’m not a practitioner, but I probably should be! I don’t have any formal spiritual practice, but yes I do like the playfulness. It’s a religion with a sense of humour, which most others haven’t. It very well expresses that playful state that you get into as a creator. Creating can be god-like, especially in the studio, mucking about, making your musical world as you would have it, and even the definition we use of God as the Creator. But I don’t think we should take things too seriously, and Zen doesn’t take words too seriously.

On your new website (www.sheilachandra.com), you have a list of “Sentences Which Are False”, including “That you are a deeply spiritual person” – false; “That you meditate for an hour before breakfast” – false; “That you were classically trained in Indian music” – false. Have you continually had to battle that view from others, with people wanting you to be some exotic, deeply spiritual, Indian woman?

Twenty years ago it certainly was. All of those false sentences on the website are ones that I’ve actually been asked over and over. There were a lot of stereotypical expectations. Then the early 90s people were accusing me of being cold and calculating, because I was very articulate about how I’d constructed my vision for solo voice. So people do suspect you when you’re not what they expect you to be. But it’s less now, as the second generation of Indians here in England grows up, people are more PC, much more aware, with less stereotyping.

In that trilogy of Real World albums, you explored a full range of vocal possibilities and techniques that really pushed your voice. Did the intensity of those vocal practices lead to the voice problems that you started to experience a few years ago?

I had a medical problem, but it wasn’t as a result from singing in that way. The problem was I developed chronic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal membrane). It can happen to anyone. There was no official cause in my case, although perhaps all the flying I did for my first season of live concerts, including coming down to Australia, didn’t have a very good effect on my sinuses. But I had food allergies before that and that’s another thing that probably set it off. So it wasn’t the singing, it was other things happening in my body. My body obviously wasn’t very happy.

My voice eventually needed remedial exercises to build back up the muscle tone that I had lost. Apart from the sinuses though, I was in very good shape. By the time I got to Australia the problems had really started to show. I did a couple of shows afterwards, but that was my last tour, because I was having to fight too hard to keep the sound quality up.

In the work that you were performing then, you concentrated on vocal sound rather than lyrics, and the drone came to the fore. Cities certainly have a drone; even the countryside where you’re living has a background ambient drone. Is the drone central to your understanding of sound?

Yeah, we surround ourselves with drones, probably because we drone. The stapes bone in the middle ear emits a drone all the time, which apparently is an average of all the frequencies that you are. Also the blood sings in our ears, so even if we put ourselves in an isolation booth, we can’t be away from drones. They’re the background to our life, and maybe even one could say, to life itself.
I do think that silence is an important backdrop to what I do, but with that trilogy of albums, making them so overtly about drone, it was going back to a commonality of musical heritage.

Even Western music until 500 years ago was all based around drone. Anything else, all this modern upstart pop music, modern classical stuff, it’s really an aberration. It’s not what the musical cultures of the world in the last 2,000 years, for the majority of time, have been doing. So yes, drone is a concept that’s very important to me.

Those Real World albums were very emotional pieces. What I was trying to do was to bring a number of techniques from vocal cultures around the world together, so that people could hear the commonality of the emotion, and how human beings in different places use the voice to express emotion.

Have you finished that vocal concept now? The new album sounds like it’s going in a quite different direction.

Yeah absolutely. I felt like I’d taken it to its ‘nth’ degree. The only exception is ‘AboneCroneDrone 7’ on the new album, because I felt that I could take it just one stage further and make the voice really almost invisible. I thought the listeners were ready for that. It’s a gorgeous, sonorous drone.

Your partner Steve comes to the fore more obviously than he has in the past, colouring your voice with a variety of sounds, even a bit of noise.

I wanted to get out of my voice-and-drone box. Steve’s been my producer and writer for the last 20 years. The perfect way to break out of my familiar territory was to let him also be an artist, and not to take everything so seriously. It’s a collaborative album with the Ganges Orchestra, which is the name for his projects.

So we were conscious that we were tapping into new sources, different working methods. We wanted to be a lot more playful. I exercised my right of veto much less, and at a later stage. I think that’s why this album is different. Steve has a mistrust of words, which gets fully explored on this album.

Why doesn’t he trust words?

Because he over-uses them! He’s aware of how easy they are to manipulate. As a producer he’s aware of how you can put a simple sound into various contexts to completely change your perception of it.

An example is the Gregorian chant on the track ‘True’. You’d normally hear that in a cathedral-like ambience, pretty much isolated, and with all the associated religious ideas that come as part of it. Juxtaposing it next to white noise, it takes on something completely different. So he knows very well how to manipulate sound, but he’s wary of words, it’s a dilemma for him, and he doesn’t know whether to trust them or not.

Even with Steve’s noises, your music doesn’t sound much like the other Indian-based stuff that’s coming out of urban London these days. How much does your rural lifestyle, the English countryside, affect your music?

It’s very divorced from the Asian Underground in that sense. It comes from a different essence, a different focus. It has silence as the backdrop, and you can’t do that in an urban environment, where you’re always dealing with other people’s noise.

Here silence makes any choice possible and my thought process isn’t interrupted.

And do you feel fully English yourself?

It’s so difficult to answer. As I don’t speak any Indian languages, how I express myself is very English indeed. The English like the  underdog, they like eccentrics. They foster and encourage eccentric forms of creativity. And I have been influenced by the English landscape. It’s home.

I don’t go back to India. Certainly in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and until quite recently really, India regarded what was happening in the Asian Diaspora here in a very patronizing light. They felt that we were a cultural outpost, when in fact I think that what we’ve done here is much more musically adventurous, and it’s now going back and influencing them. But it meant that in physical terms I cut off from India, and certainly didn’t feel that I needed to get any authority or validation from there.

Are you paying attention to the Asian Underground scene these days? Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney?

Not very much. They are mostly collaborators. They’re more DJs, writer/arrangers. Arranging other people. It’s an event and it requires a lot more people. They bounce off other musicians. I don’t think we really work in the same manner.

Are you planning on touring with the new music? Is it performable?

No, I’ve written it free from the constraints of wondering how it could be replicated onstage. It’s far too layered and complicated and not very practical in that way. I think of the studio as the leading edge of what I do. It has effects, like in the theatre, which you can’t get anywhere else. It’s the dimensions and form of that place.

Also there’s my voice problem. It’s back to about 90% now, but what’s missing is stamina, and until that’s back and I feel confident that I’m not over-pushing it, I’ll restrict myself to the studio. So no live work for the moment, but I’m happy that I finally have my voice back again.


Sheila Chandra, The Indipop Retrospective

Sheila Chandra - The Indipop Retrospective
Sheila Chandra – The Indipop Retrospective

Milwaukee, USA – The latest installment in the collection of reissues of Sheila Chandra’s recordings is The Indipop Retrospective. It features Chandra’s work on Indipop spanning 1983-2003.

The enhanced CD retrospective includes a video of ‘Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee’ and 1 previously unreleased track, ‘Crescent Silver Scythe.’

During the early 1980s, Chandra and Indipop released 5 groundbreaking albums which allowed her to explore — with no commercial or media pressures — her deepening creativity as a vocalist, composer, and artist in the truest sense.