Sheila Chandra

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Sheila Chandra
Sheila Chandra (Cropped).jpg
Sheila Chandra at The Big Chill in 2008
Background information
Birth name Sheila Savithri Elizabeth Chandra
Born (1965-03-14) 14 March 1965 (age 50)
Origin London, England
Genres Pop, world fusion, world
Occupation(s) singer, author, songwriter, actor
Instruments vocals, Linn drum
Years active 1981–2010
Labels Indipop Records, Phonogram, Mercury/PolyGram Records, Real World Records, Shakti/Narada
Associated acts Monsoon, Ancient Beatbox, The Imagined Village

Sheila Chandra (born 14 March 1965 in London) is a retired British pop singer of Indian descent. In recent years, burning mouth syndrome prevented her from singing or even speaking and forced her retirement from music in 2010.

Indian–Western pop fusion period[edit]

Sheila Chandra first came to public attention as an actress, playing Sudhamani Patel in the BBC school drama Grange Hill from 1979 to 1981.[1]

As a teenager she formed the band Monsoon with Steve Coe (who became the band's producer) and bassist Martin Smith. Monsoon created a fusion of Western and Indian pop styles. The band recorded its only album, Third Eye, in 1982 from which it had a surprise hit single, "Ever So Lonely", which peaked at No. 12 in the UK. Monsoon followed-up with the single "Shakti," which peaked at No. 41, but this was to be the band's final charting single. The album also includes a cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", featuring the distinctive EBow guitar sound of Bill Nelson.

Resenting pressure from their record company over musical direction, Monsoon dissolved in 1982 and Coe and Smith set about promoting Chandra as a solo artist on independent Indipop Records.

Chandra went on to release a number of albums in the 1980s, at times experimenting with her voice as an instrument through a range of techniques. After a creative split with Martin Smith, Chandra released three albums on Peter Gabriel's Real World labelWeaving My Ancestors' Voices (1992), The Zen Kiss (1994), and ABoneCroneDrone (1996).

Shift to solo voice and drone style[edit]

In the 1990s Chandra decided, having been a studio artist exclusively, to give concerts for the first time, and concurrently released a trilogy of albums on Peter Gabriel's Real World label. These were in the minimalist solo voice and drone style, which she developed especially for live performances, so that she could perform alone on stage with only the occasional taped drone for accompaniment. Martin Smith was no longer actively involved by this time. Drawing on similarities of structure between Indian ragas and English folk melodies, she started to incorporate many British and Irish traditional songs and techniques, as well as other vocal styles and techniques from around the world.[2]

In 2010, Chandra developed burning mouth syndrome, which has rendered her unable to sing or even speak, laugh, or cry without suffering intense pain, rendering her effectively mute.[3][4]

Other projects[edit]

In 1990 Chandra interrupted her sabbatical to record a single, "Raining," with the folk-synth band Ancient Beatbox which also appeared on its self-titled album. I,

In 2000 she contributed two tracks, one a cover version of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" and the other a remix of her solo track "Ever So Lonely/Eyes/Ocean" by Stephen Haig, to the album Gifted on Real World Records.

Chandra is a respected performer on the world-music scene and remains active into the 21st century. In 2001 she released a collaborative album with the Ganges Orchestra titled This Sentence is True (The Previous Sentence is False) based on her two experimental EPs with that group.

2002 saw the release of a remix of her original hit single "Ever So Lonely" retitled "So Lonely" by the band Jakatta. It charted at No. 8 in the UK. In 2002 she performed a song titled "Breath of Life" (retitled "The Grace of Valar" in its 2006 release)[5] with Howard Shore for the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack.

In 2007, she recorded two songs for Simon Emmerson's project the Imagined Village, which set out to reinterpret traditional British songs using a wide range of contemporary British musicians. She also appeared with the Imagined Village on a concert tour of Britain in 2007.


An excerpt from Monsoon's Ever So Lonely

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With Monsoon:

  • Third Eye (1982) (retitled Monsoon featuring Sheila Chandra in 1998)

With the Ganges Orchestra:

  • This Sentence is True (The Previous Sentence is False) (2001)


  • Out on My Own (1984)
  • Quiet (1984)
  • The Struggle (1985)
  • Nada Brahma (1985)
  • Roots and Wings (1990)
  • Silk (compilation, 1991)
  • Weaving My Ancestors' Voices (1992)
  • The Zen Kiss (1994)
  • ABoneCroneDrone (1996)
  • Moonsung: A Real World Retrospective (compilation, 1999)
  • The Indipop Retrospective (compilation, 2003)


  • "Ever So Lonely" (1982)
  • "Shakti (The Meaning of Within)" (1982)
  • "Tomorrow Never Knows" (1982)
  • "Wings of the Dawn (Prem Kavita)" (1982)
  • "Ever So Lonely" (Remix by Ben Chapman) (1990)
  • "So Lonely" ("Ever So Lonely" remixes by Jakatta) (2002)





  1. ^ "Roll Call: Grange Hill's Online Attendance Register". Grange Hill Online. GH Online. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  2. ^ Sheila Chandra at AllMusic
  3. ^ Warner, Andrea (15 November 2012). "The stories behind Peter Gabriel's Real World Records: Sheila Chandra". Retrieved 1 August 2013. At first I thought the burning sensation in my mouth was simply a result of the physio work, and only a short-term thing, but it got worse and worse. Now I experience long-lasting neurological pain whenever I speak. Singing is out of the question and I haven’t even dared to warm up for about two years. It feels like my mouth is on fire and it goes on for hours or days, and can get bad enough to wake me at night. Remaining silent—which means no talking or singing or laughing or crying—is the only way to stay pain free, and I’m effectively mute. For the first couple of years, I didn’t even get a correct diagnosis, but I now know that what I have is burnt mouth syndrome (BMS). It often strikes menopausal women, and there is no known cause or cure. The frustrating thing is that my voice sounds completely normal when I do speak. It just hurts like hell! 
  4. ^ "Sheila Chandra United Kingdom". Real World Records. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – The Complete Recordings (2006)". Retrieved 2010-02-15. 

External links[edit]