Music has always been an integral part of Chandrika Tandon’s life. Her new CD, Soul Call, is a testament to that love and passion of music that has defined her since her earliest days. A melding of Carnatic, Hindustani, and Western influences, Soul Call draws in the listener with a healing mantra enveloped in classical Indian ragas. It’s an album that resonates with people of all cultures, as indicated by the tremendous response from listeners – “The peace and tranquility the CD provides is indescribable…”, “Absolutely beautiful…”, “This music is lovely to listen to and spiritually calming…thank you!”
Born and raised in India, Chandrika was immediately influenced by her mother, a talented Carnatic classical musician. But while Chandrika won several local music prizes and performed on All India Radio, she chose to pursue a more traditional path, carving out an auspicious business career. Still, the power of music in her life could not be silenced, and now audiences around the world are benefiting from that insistent call.
Chandrika built a tremendously successful business career with the same passion with which she approaches music. She spent many years as a partner with McKinsey and Company before forming Tandon Capital Associates, Inc., a financial advisory and investment firm. She has worked with Boards, Chief Executives and Senior Management teams of over 40 financial institutions all over the world. Chandrika, a Trustee of New York University, serves on the Board of Overseers at the NYU Stern School of Business, where she is also Executive-in-Residence; the Dean's Council at NYU Wagner School of Public Service and the President’s Council on International Activities at Yale University. In 2009, Chandrika was honored with the Walter Nichols’ medal, NYU Stern’s highest honor given to distinguished business people with a record of integrity and service. In 2010, Chandrika was inducted into The Sir Harold Acton Society of New York University in recognition of her efforts on behalf of higher education. She reaches out to her community as founder and chairman of the Tandon Foundation, supporting non-profits that focus on sustainable livelihoods, women’s economic power, education, the arts and spirituality. She is also a trustee and board member of the America India Foundation, an advisory board member of Pratham USA and the Indo American Arts Council, and a founding board member of the Hindu Community Outreach Foundation.
As she pursued her business and philanthropy endeavors, Chandrika continued to fill her life with music of every culture. As she traveled around the world, she sought out local sounds from every corner of the globe – from all night concerts in Salvador Bahia to the Byblos Festival in war-torn Beirut. Chandrika listened to everything from Cliff Richard in the UK to Nana Mouskouri in Athens. Not to mention her hometown of New York – “I’ve cried in the Metropolitan Opera and have wanted to hide inside the notes and harmonies in symphonies in Lincoln Center,” she recalls, “and my very own Central Park, gazing at the stars, while exquisite musical strains wafted around me.”
“About nine years ago, I woke up one day when my daughter was starting high school and realized that, though I had reached many measures of business success, I had not connected with my deepest self, my life’s purpose. I went on a journey going back to who I am. I asked myself what makes me happy. And it struck me that all of my happiest moments in life go back to music! I needed to pursue my passion for music and share it with everyone. That began my phase as a music seeker,” says Chandrika.
Five years ago, Chandrika revisited her musical roots and started taking voice lessons from Hindustani master, Girish Wazalwar. “Girish Dada gave me a window into this melodious, complex, yet totally enchanting world of Hindustani vocal music,” says Chandrika. “He encouraged me to study and showed me a path of losing myself in the music where nothing else seemed to exist but the notes, and space, and the connection with a power far deeper than me.” In her musical journey she was further guided by other musical greats – Pandit Jasraj, Veena Sahasrabuddhe, Pandit Vijay Kichlu and Shubhra Guha – all stalwarts of various schools of music. And her spiritual guides, Sri Sri Ravishankar and Swami Dayananda Saraswati, gave her great encouragement to pursue her spiritual journey with a strong focus on music.
Inspired and empowered, Chandrika was ready to record her first CD. “My father-in-law was turning 90 and I wanted to give him and my mother-in-law some simple music that they could relate to. So over a few days I composed the Om Namashivaya in 9 different ragas and 9 different talas or rhythmic cycles.” The album caught the attention of Vib Baxi at Navras Records, who released the album commercially under the title Soul Mantra.
Chandrika’s new CD, Soul Call, picks up where Soul Mantra left off, incorporating world-class musicianship and production values to create a sound that is inspiring, healing, and beautiful. Featuring internationally renowned musicians Tejendra Majumdar, Snehashish Mojumder, and Rakesh Chaurasia, the album combines traditional Indian sounds such as sarod, sitar, and esraj with Western instruments such as piano, electric bass, and classical guitar.
The songs on Soul Call take the listener on a spiritual journey. Using important slokas – hymns of praise dedicated to God – from ancient Indian texts, the songs are designed to revitalize and heal. “Quite by accident I discovered that repeating the eight phonemes Om Na Mo Na Ra Ya Na Ya work to cleanse the eight vital centers of the body,” Chandrika explains. “Most of the songs’ introductions are verses of surrender to the grace that is present in every atom of every being. For example, in one sloka in “Bageshri,” we say, you are the mother, the father, the teacher, my friend, the grace in me, the valor in me – I surrender all to you, Lord of all. In the sloka in “Basanth Mukhari,” we say, I offer all the thoughts, words and acts I have done to the Lord again and again.” The result is a physical transformation that Chandrika felt compelled to share. “I personally discovered the healing power of the mantra after I found myself feeling physically great whenever I sang these words,” muses Chandrika. “Why should everyone not feel this way?”
Soul Call is Chandrika Tandon’s offering to the world. She is partnering with local and national charitable organizations such as the Indo-American Arts Council, Art of Living Foundation, the Arsh Vidya Gurukulam, and Hindu Temples in many parts of the US to use the CD as their fundraising tool, and to reach a wider audience that can benefit from the rejuvenating power of the songs. “I’ve spent my whole adult life building my business and using that to give back to the community,” says Chandrika. “Now it’s time to give something that’s as personal to me as I want it to be to the world – music that brings peace, happiness, and spirituality into each heart. I can’t think of a better legacy.”
Chandrika’s latest album Soul Call is a 2011 Grammy nominated album, which is also a not for profit initiative where 100 pct of the proceeds will benefit organizations in the fields of community building, arts and spirituality. She lives in New York City with her husband Ranjan, founder and President of an investment firm, and their daughter Lita, a recent graduate of Yale University.