Music Review: Chandrika Tandon's Shivoham

By Samir Shukla

Chandrika Tandon
Shivoham – The Quest
(Soul Chants Music)

Chandrika Tandon is a seeker of the deeper meaning of existence and commonality of human connections. Music informs her journey. She is an accomplished business woman, but seeks something more as a vocalist and composer.

Shivoham – The Quest is her fourth recording and a continuation of her journey of seeking. The three-disc set begins with an overture and consists of three movements – “Yearning," “Searching," and “Connecting." The essence of this recording is her serene voice draped over spiritual music. Tandon grew up in Chennai, but it's her world travels that affect her multi-hued music. This collection is ambitious to say the least. She chants timeless Sanskrit slokas and spiritual hymns stitched with numerous musical genres, including traditional Indian classical music, Irish reels, western classical and jazz intermingled with English lyrics.

It's a blend of Indian and Western music with a decidedly Indian backdrop. Recorded at multiple studios in four countries over a period of over two years, including the legendary Abbey Road studio in London, she worked with Indian musicians, the London Metropolitan Orchestra, the Soweto Gospel Choir, London Voices, Kings singers and western soloists. It takes adventurous ears to appreciate the Sanskrit slokas intermingling with western choral singers. Gregorian chants, South African gospel singers, Indian ragas, and English folk music are all at home here.

The English lyrics are quite simple, but that's the point, as the words enhance, not clash with slokas, mantras, and gospel music. It's essentially a spiritual recording, where the music can be haunting, meditative, and exotic.

Multiple listening sessions are required for the experience to fully sink in, as some cuts initially seem a bit incongruent, but they subtly merge in an eclectic manner. An array of musicians, including Indian and Western percussionists, guitarists, accordion, flute, sitar, and several other instruments contribute to the sound. There are many pieces that create a meditative trance. Tandon composed and produced Shivoham – The Quest describing her own journey which she sees as “a universal journey; of seeking the light, yearning for it; searching for it and finding moments of connection to it."

She writes in the liner notes, “We spend a lifetime searching for love, peace, happiness, success – yet the light we sometimes so relentlessly seek, is right inside of us. It has always been – a part of the universal journey that is as old as time itself. Shivoham – The Quest is a musical journey of my own journey."

The culmination of reflecting, writing, composing, and experimenting, including during workshops in her house and during recording sessions, results in a lovely piece of work.

Listen to the record here: