Lavina Melwani interviews Chandrika Tandon on her Grammy Award nomination

FEBRUARY 11, 2011

A Corporate Trailblazer Goes for Grammy Gold


Also see: Chandrika Tandon and ‘Soul Call’ at the Grammy Awards (includes music video clip)

[GRAMMY1]Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal

Grammy-nominated musician Chandrika Tandon plays a Tambura, a traditional Indian stringed instrument, in her home on the Upper East Side.

She is the quintessential underdog, the unknown. Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon, a financial advisor and a trustee of New York University, is also a nominee for the Grammy Award in the Best Contemporary World Music Album category, and she’s up against veterans and superstars of the music world—Bela Fleck, Bebel Gilberto, Angelique Kidjo and Sergio Mendes.

Ms. Tandon’s résumé doesn’t exactly read like that of a music diva: A graduate of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, she was a partner at the corporate consulting firm McKinsey and Company before founding Tandon Capital Associates in 1992. Apart from her work at NYU, she is a board member of the American India Foundation (AIF) and the founder of Tandon Foundation. There’s not a musical note in there—she’s better known on Wall Street than in Woodstock.

Indeed, Ms. Tandon, a 56-year-old Upper East Side resident, earned her Grammy nomination without a major record label or any star power behind her. Yet “Soul Call,” her second self-produced album on her own Soul Chants label, has become a sleeper hit, garnering more than 36,000 followers on Facebook. One, an expecting mother, wrote that her unborn baby kicks and dances when she listens to it; another wrote: “This music is like digging a tunnel deep into my soul.”

The Journal spoke with Ms. Tandon about mixing business with music and the prospect of taking home Grammy gold on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.What was your reaction when you heard of the Grammy nomination?

Utter shock and wonder. I have such gratitude that the community of music industry folks has taken the time to listen to an unknown. What it’s done is made the music accessible to so many more people than would have heard it otherwise.

Was music a big part of your growing up years in India?

We lived in a joint family where everyone loved to sing, and music would always be playing on the radio. When we had power cuts, my sister, brother and I would sing in the dark—we didn’t care how long the power cuts lasted! (Ms. Tandon’s sister is PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.) We were a simple family where education was so important. Music was my soul but I chose to pursue a career in business.

Tell us about the journey from business success to composing ‘Soul Call’?

Ten years ago I realized that the happiest moments of my life were tied to music and decided to make it center-stage in my life. I searched far and wide to find great masters to give me a rigorous grounding in classical Hindustani music and devoted hours of study despite my tough work schedule. This whole journey has been about going deep into myself, of viewing the world through a kaleidoscope rather than a single lens. We have one short life, are given certain resources and have an obligation to use them. It’s all about giving back, and sharing. That’s why all proceeds of “Soul Call” go to community-building causes.

How have your worlds of business and music intersected?

Music keeps me centered at my deepest level and has made me a more expansive person. I am learning every day that it is easy to radiate grace if you can find it within. This journey has also helped me redefine my concept of perfection—many birds in the forest can sing sweetly even if they are not all nightingales…. we have to honor them all and it does not compromise excellence. After listening to ‘Soul Call’, some of my most reserved business acquaintances are much more forthcoming about their passions and their spirituality, and I hope some have been inspired to actively follow their dreams, even as a second innings.

How much has music affected your life as a New Yorker?

I am a New Yorker inside and out, having lived here for 31 years. I get to listen to all the great Western and Indian musicians more easily here—and sometimes go to the same concert many times! I just love the city, and am very involved in great institutions here, like NYU, where I get to work with some of the greatest minds ever. One of my great passions is a community choir which I founded and conduct for the seniors in the Queens Hindu temple. We perform ancient Sanskrit chants set to rocking western harmonies, using Indian classical and western vocal training techniques for people who have never sung before. Each session is a shared celebration.

With the Grammy ceremony just days away, what are your thoughts on winning—or not winning?

That’s not the way I think of my life; I don’t think of winning or losing. I think of the Grammys as a happening at a point in time. I’m not trying to use this as a stepping stone to something else. I live by the words of the mystic Kabir:

When ‘I’ was there, the Divine was missing.
When ‘I’ left, the Divine took over.

So the quest is to lose myself and go with the flow.

Copyright ©2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Also see: Chandrika Tandon Concert to Benefit 1000 Maharishi Vedic Pandits Launches Global Peace Initiative, Global Peace Initiative: 13 Questions and Answers with Ramani Ayer, and Chandrika Tandon Benefit Concert in Iowa Helps Launch Global Peace Initiative.

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One Response to “Lavina Melwani interviews Chandrika Tandon on her Grammy Award nomination”

  1. Chandrika Tandon Benefit Concert in Iowa Helps Launch Global Peace Initiative « The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Tandon Concert to Benefit 1000 Maharishi Vedic Pandits Launches Global Peace Initiative, and Lavina Melwani interviews Chandrika Tandon on her Grammy Award nomination. Advertisement Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Did […]


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