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Sheila Chandra


Country of origin:

England (of Indian heritage)

Type of music generally:

Amazing beautiful & fierce mixture of ethereal vocals, traditional evocative/eclectic Indian and British music, pop/world music, experimental vocal techniques, a haunting, melodic, deeply spiritual voice.

Status:

Most recent release, Indipop Retrospective (compilation, 2003); most recent release of new material, ABoneCroneDrone (1996)

See also:

Sheila Chandra's site

Wikipedia's entry on Sheila Chandra

Harmony Ridge's Sheila Chandra page

The Ectophiles' Guide entries for Monsoon, a band Sheila Chandra was in before her solo releases, and the work she did as Sheila Chandra and the Ganges Orchestra

Comparisons:

Unique, but at times a little like Najma, at others a little like Sandy Denny, at others like Meredith Monk's vocal experimentations. (Neile)

Covers/own material:

Mixture of traditional and her own and Steve Coe's compositions (sometimes with Martin Smith)

General comments:

If there ever should be an Ecto Goddess, Sheila is it. (bravegirl@earthlink.net)

after monsoon's third eye was released, steve coe and sheila decided that it would be better to market her as a solo artist instead of fronting a band. she released out on my own, quiet, the struggle and nada brahma before weaving my ancestor's voices. the first four albums are now available on cd. out on my own is more akin to monsoon (i.e., pop with indian trappings). quiet is an introspective piece. the struggle is a step away from that in a different direction from out on my own. (woj@smoe.org)

Her early albums are Indian-influenced pop. Gradually her recordings become more experimental. She has a wonderful, powerful, voice that she can use in pop, folk, traditional, experimental ways. Sheila Chandra is a goddess and I'm grateful that Nada Brahma and Out On My Own are again available. She's utterly amazing. One of the most experimental yet basic singers. I always think she's going to be too far over the edge for me but she's always closer to home. (Neile)

Not too many people with this background and creative genius rolled up in one. I've been absorbing myself in the wonderful IndiPop releases of previous Sheila Chandra work. I discovered Sheila Chandra through The Zen Kiss and was an immediate fan. I've always felt a connection to Indian music, and a great love for the female voice in music, and the fusion of the two via Sheila Chandra is a treasure. Anyway, every time I listen to one of these Indipop CDs, I'm totally convinced it's the best Sheila Chandra has done, but then I listen to the next one, and say the same thing.
     I don't know where I was in the '80s to have missed this music, but the discovery now is like having 10 missed Christmases showing up at the same time. (jsutton@rahul.net)

Sheila Chandra has one of THE most gorgeous voices on earth. Not only that, but she does really interesting and amazing things with it. She really uses it as an instrument, playing it as an instrument as well as singing with it. Surely she is a goddess. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I *LOVE* most of Sheila Chandra's albums. She has enough variety that within one album you can find songs that fit any mood mixed in. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

Recommended first album:

Weaving My Ancestors' Voices is a great balance between her more experimental later stuff and her earlier more pop music. (Neile)

Sheila Chandra's old Indipop albums (with Monsoon and solo) have cool tablas all over them, but are still more traditional sounding. Her more recent albums are more experimental. I'd track through The Zen Kiss or Weaving My Ancestors' Voices for a flavor. (neal)

My personal recommendations would be in this order: Weaving My Ancestors' Voices, quiet, Monsoon's release, The Zen Kiss (those are my very favorites...anything after this I consider very uneven, but with songs to die for, so a must for fans): Nada Brahma, Roots & Wings, Out On My Own, The Struggle (and...*WAY* down at the bottom...): the Silk compilation (blugh!) (c. 1995, vickie@enteract.com)

Recordings:


Out On My Own

Release info:

1984—Indipop; re-released 1996—Indipop/Caroline Records—CAROL 1783-2

Availability:

Fairly wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of pop and experimental things

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—vocals, spoken bols, sargam

Guest artists:

Dharambir Singh—sitar on 2 tracks
Ghulam Sarwar Sabri—tabla, ghatam
Dinesh—tabla on 2 tracks
S.K. Kurup—morcing
Martin Smith—guitars, piano, surmandel, sitar, accordion, bells
Steve Coe—piano, surmandel, bells, synthesizer, cabassa

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

A good transition album from Monsoon's Indian pop sound and the mix with more traditional Indian sounds that followed. This is mostly pop-sounding though definitely complex and assured enough for the most discriminating taste. It's quite upbeat, and thoroughly delightful. (Neile)

Quiet

Release info:

1984 indipop; re-released 1988—MNW Records—SCHCD 2; re-released 1996—Indipop/Caroline Records—CAROL 1782-2

Availability:

Fairly wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended if you like female vocals with an eastern sensibility

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—vocals, spoke bols and jathis, sargam bells, water wok

Guest artists:

Dharambir Singh—all lead sitar, tamboura, dilruba
Dinesh—madhat on "Quiet"
Preston Heyman—gamalan, whispered hit-hat, water wok, bells, santoor, cabass, shaker, windchimes, cymbal, gong on "Quiet"
Martin Smith—bass guitar, synthesizer, surmandel, sitar, bells, santoor, tamboura, acoustic guitar, piano
Steve Coe—piano, eqtara, synthesizer, bells, cabassa

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

Winding, meditative, mix of ethereal vocals and spoken bols (vocal percussion). Lovely! Two long pieces in several parts are the basis of this collection. This album marks Sheila Chandra's debut as a songwriter. (Neile)

Quiet blew my mind, now I'm convinced this has got to be the very best, at least for now, until I listen to another. Quiet contains no lyrics, just a variety of vocal textures, and spoken bols, weaved into traditional and non-traditional Indian ragas and instrumentation. The titles of the ten tracks are "Quiet 1" through "Quiet 10". "Quiet 2" is an addictive bluesy-sounding piece that I tend to play over and over. I'm not a musician, and certainly not familiar with the tunings and range of the sitar, but does anybody know what instrument produces that blues drone in "Quiet 2"? I suspect it's a sitar, but I've never heard a sitar sound like that. (jsutton@rahul.net)

The album has been re-issued, and if you don't have it yet, or have been thinking about checking out Sheila's music, go get it. I bought the cd, and I'm happy I did. This album, in many ways, could be called an instrumental album, because Sheila's vocals are another instrument. A must for fans and a great introduction to her work for fans-to-be. The liner notes are also really interesting to read. (JoAnn Whetsell)


The Struggle

Release info:

1985—Indipop; re-released 1995 Indipop/Caroline Records—CAROL 1781-2

Availability:

Fairly wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

High for lovers of Sheila Chandra's work

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—akar, blues and expression vocals, sargam, jathis and spoken bols

Guest artists:

Dharambir Singh—sitar
Preston Heyman—gamelan, simmonds kit, zildjan cymbals, triangle and shaker
Dinesh—tabla on 3 tracks
Martin Smith—fretless, 8-string and 4-string bass, surmandel, piano, tamboura, synthesizer and finger bells
Steve Coe—piano, eqtara, bells, synthesizer, chinesk gong and bass vocals
Richard and Norman Bragg—mandolins
Jon Hooke—E-bow and blues guitars
Manikrao Popaticar—tabla (on 2 tracks)

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

This is very indipop, but moving toward slightly more experimental music with the vocal boks. A delightful album. (Neile)

WOW!! I loved the skim, no waiting to live w/ it. The Zen Kiss was a bit spare for me, but this is lovely!!! I love The Struggle,. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)


Nada Brahma

Release info:

1985—Indipop; re-released 1995 Indipop/Caroline Records—CAROL 1780-2

Availability:

Fairly wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended if you like female vocals with an eastern sensibility

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—vocals

Guest artists:

Dharambir Singh—sitar on "Nada Brahma"
Ghulum Sarwar Sabri—tabla, ghatam, mridangam, ghungru
Nandakumara—carnatic whistle
Paul James—shenhai, soprano sax, alto recorder
S.K. Kurup—morcing
Martin Smith—8-string bass, acoustic guitar, sitar, piano, accordion
Steve Coe—piano, synthesizer, cabassa

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

The title track, "Nada Brahma (Sound Is God)" is a obvious precursor of Sheila Chandra's later vocal drones, and mixes pop/Indian sounds with experimental vocals. (Neile)

Silk

Release info:

1991—Shanachie Records—SHANACHIE 64035

Availability:

Unknown

Ecto priority:

Low

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—lead vocals, expression vocals, tabla bols, jathis sargam, all backing vocals

Guest artists:

Steve Coe—piano, swarmandel, bells, synthesizer, cabassa
Martin Smith—guitars, piano, swarmandel, sitar accordion, bells
Ghulam Sarwar—tabla, ghatam, mridangam, ghungru
S.K. Kurup—morcing
Nanda Kumara—carnatic whistle
Dharambir Singh—sitar
Dinesh—tabla
Paul James—Shenhai, soprano sax, alto recorder

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

Blugh! (vickie@enteract.com)

Silk is a compilation of songs taken from her 1983 to 1990 albums. You might think this would be a good introduction to Sheila's music, but somehow it doesn't work at all. They seem to have taken all the wrong songs and arranged them in ways that don't complement each other. The emphasis seems to be more on her poppy side rather than her challenging and invigorating songs. As Vickie pointed out above, you'd be better off with any of her other albums. The collector will want all the albums this samples from, and the person with passing interest will want one of the more solid albums. (1/00, neal)


Roots and Wings

Release info:

1990; re-released 1995—Caroline Records—CAR 1779-A; re-released 2000—EMD/NARADA

Availability:

Fairly wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for lovers of female vocals and anyone who loves Weaving My Ancestors' Voices and The Zen Kiss. (Neile)

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

This album is very similar in sound and level of sophistication to Weaving My Ancestors' Voices and The Zen Kiss. A wonderful mix of the traditional and non-traditional, and of course, an amazing voice. (Neile)

Roots and Wings doesn't have the thickness of sound and complexity of arrangements of Weaving My Ancestors' Voices. There's a lot more space in the songs. There is one short vocal percussion piece called "Konnokol Al Dente". I have really enjoyed the album a lot. It seems more Indian to me than the later releases. Not the same kind of material as she's been doing in recent years, but a fun Indi-pop album. (neal)

Anyway, my brain just turns to mush and starts drooling in total awe when I think of Sheila's music, and oh God, when I LISTEN to it, so I have a hard time describing it to people. It's also very hard because I can't make comparisons. There just isn't anyone else (that I've heard at least) doing stuff like her. And no one who has the same inviting, mesmerizing effect on me that puts me RIGHT THERE with the music. I especially like track 4, "The Struggle, (Slagverks mix)". (JoAnn Whetsell)


Weaving My Ancestors' Voices

Release info:

1992—Real World Records—Carol 2322-2

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Must have

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—vocals, drones

Guest artists:

Steve Coe—drones
Stuart Bruce—guitars

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

This collection to me is totally essential. She does a mix of English folk songs, traditional Indian music, and experimental music based on either/both of these traditions. Exceptional music and vocals. (Neile)

Weaving My Ancestors' Voices seems to be a denser album, with a lot more stylistic variations than Roots and Wings. I was reminded a bit of Loreena McKennitt when I got this album. (neal)


The Zen Kiss

Release info:

1994—Real World Records—carol 2342-2; 7243 8 39457 2 6

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—voice, drones

Guest artists:

Steve Coe—drones

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

Lots of great speaking in tongues on this, and it's another step in the direction Weaving my Ancestors' Voices started her in. A great album. This album goes beyond Weaving my Ancestors' Voices into using the voice more and more. It's extremely beautiful and strange. Highly recommended, especially if you like Weaving my Ancestors' Voices and experimental use of the voice. (Neile)

A beautiful album. She is really remarkable, and it was interesting to read the liner notes—to see that the "Speaking in Tongues" songs are not improvised but carefully composed over the course of months, and rehearsed and rehearsed until she can do it perfectly. Fascinating stuff, unlike anything/anyone else I've heard. (jjhanson@att.net)

we were eating dinner while we listened to this the first time. after a few songs, i had to run over the cd player, find the jewel booklet and read it through since i was *sure* that sandy denny had possessed sheila's body. i was quite amused to find the paragraph where sheila talked about how she found what she was doing on this album to be very similar to "other ornamental vocal styles such as sandy denny's." (woj@smoe.org)

Wow. I'd heard quite a few tracks from this on the radio already, but the first listen of the album as a whole utterly blew me away. I'm commanding my parents to get themselves a copy of this posthaste, as I'm sure it will bowl them over too...if you're deeply impressed by the power of the human voice, specifically the female voice, your life is not complete without this album. Period. (meth@smoe.org)

I have only heard one song from this album, "La Sagesse (Women, I'm Calling You)". It was a cappella, Sheila singing by herself. Her voice was gorgeous, and the song was really neat. (jwermont@sonic.net)

Strange! But good! How can anyone do that with a *voice*? (uli@zoodle.robin.de)


ABoneCroneDrone

Release info:

1996—Real World Records—01704-623562-4 In US CAROL 2356-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—vocals, drones

Guest artists:

Steve Coe—drones
Stuart Bruce—guitar harmonics on track 6
Jim Mills—wood and metal didgeridoo on track 2
Paul James—bagpipe drones on track 3

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

I just popped Sheila Chandra's ABoneCroneDrone in the player. I'd forgotten how gorgeous and haunting her music is—I don't know why she isn't more in my forebrain because she's way up there in my personal musical pantheon. Anyway, what stunning music. I wonder if she's due for a new release soon, and I wonder where she'll go from here? This album continues to prove that Sheila Chandra is utterly amazing. (Neile)

I find it more accessible than The Zen Kiss. (zzkwhite@ktwu.wuacc.edu)

Amazing. Very ambient. I used to think her voice was less prominent on this album, but now I think it's just integrated with the music in a different way. One of those rarities that you keep coming back to and keep discovering new wonders in. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I put on ABoneCroneDrone if I'm wanting meditative, spacey music. It is pretty much one large song. (rholmes@cs.stanford.edu)

ABoneCroneDrone is billed as "a new album from Real World's most popular artist. Six tracks of pure vocal drones, melodies and harmonies from world music's greatest female vocalist." It also says it's the third album in a trilogy (the first two are Weaving My Ancestors' Voices and The Zen Kiss), and all the songs on it are called "ABoneCroneDrone". It is definitely a drone, but with a fair amount of variation. I quite liked it, but I think it's something I would need to be in the right mood for to listen to. Well worth picking up. (bvmi@odin.cc.pdx.edu)

ABoneCroneDrone is just what the title implies, mostly drones and shimmering background sorta music, nowhere near the "heavy percussion" description.... (brianb@mooman.com)


Moonsung: A Real World Retrospective

Release info:

1999—Real World Records—72438471842-8

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Sheila Chandra—vocals, drones

Guest artists:

Steve Coe—vocals, drones
Paul James—bagpipe drones on ABoneCroneDrone 3

Produced by:

Steve Coe

Comments:

A great compilation of her three albums for Real World Records plus two new songs. It really showcases what a brilliant career she has had. What more can be said? A must for fans and a great introduction to her music for those who haven't heard it yet. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

There's also a cool compilation called "The History of Indipop" (1992—Great Expectations—018376 400312) which is not all Sheila, but has some re-mixes and non-album songs worth having, plus some other good groups. It includes "quiet!" (excerpt), "Correspondence" (non-album), "The Struggle (Slagverks Mix)" (non-album)," Bhinna Abhinna" (non-album); and with Monsoon "Mirror Of Your Mind" (non-album) and "Ever So Lonely (re-mix)". (vickie@enteract.com)


Thanks to Neal Copperman and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2012-10-01 20:22:32.
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