Chandrika Tandon Talks about her Grammy nomination, and album Soul Chants

Photo Credit: Sunita Thyagarajan

Chandrika Tandon is nominated for a Grammy this year, and she took some time in between her busy schedule to tell us about her album Soul Chants and what really drives her spiritual and rhythmic sounds.

Has music always been an important part of your life?

I grew up in a very simple town in India with only 1 or 2 radio stations, but my mother would always blast those 2 radio stations at 5am. I think subliminally it started to get into my head, ambient music all around the house. At 13 or so, I started taking French lessons and without learning hardly any French I was singing French music and composers. I was always drawn to the words and poetry, and I always heard music.

How have your travels influenced your music?

As I began to travel to Beiruit, I began getting very excited about Greek and Middle Eastern Music, and for the next 15 years I always listened to worldly music. When I came to America, I had no money but I managed to buy a Martin Guitar. I lived in a tiny apartment with no furniture for 12 months. I have spent a lot of time in Brazil, and in Australia, and I became very comfortable in other types of music. I know all the words to the white album. I began to learn language through music.

Your fans are extremely connected to you. What does “music for the soul” mean to you?

If it breaks whoever you are inside. My happiest moments are with music. It does something to me, and if you have music in your life, you can never really be un-happy. Somehow it goes inside, and finds your inner grace. I just want to hug the world; I can see the transformation in me. You know, so that’s the journey.

You use a lot of the same sounds and chants throughout. Can you tell me a little bit about your symbolism and influences?

If you sit down and chant 100 times, it’s boring. My thought was to make my music a celebration. To sing Indian music, you have to have a lot of virtuosity. I wanted to make this simple, so people who don’t know Indian music can still listen to it. I wanted to keep it simple, so everyone can sing it.

What type of instruments were used on your album?

I collaborated with a flute player, who is a big name in India and I of course used traditional Indian instruments. But I wanted it to feel accessible. I used piano, keyboards, and drums, mixing Indian music with western rhythms.

When are you planning to tour?

Late summer and early fall there will be concerts. Our fan base includes all demographics, all over the world, every religion and all races. It’s hard to play everywhere, which is why I have been so touched by our fans on facebook. My hope is to just keep sharing.

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