Chandrika Tandon’s latest album Ammu’s Treasures is a hug to the world

Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon’s latest musical venture, ‘Ammu’s Treasures,’ is a heartfelt embrace that unites diverse cultures and generations with the universal language of melody.

Updated - November 03, 2023 02:51 pm IST

Published - November 02, 2023 11:18 am IST

Chandrika Tandon

Chandrika Tandon | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The story of how a globally recognised business leader became a Grammy nominated singer and humanitarian, is one filled with love and laughter.

Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon, the first Indian woman to make partner at the US-based management consulting company McKinsey, and older sister of former Pepsico Chief Indra Nooyi, went on a soul-searching journey over three decades ago. This prompted her to rethink the very essence of success. With deliberate intention, she wove music, acts of service, and meditation into the fabric of her business life.

“I remember sitting in a very serious business discussion and humming to myself because that’s what helps me think. I make up songs and tunes in my mind all the time. This is my happy place.” says Chandrika, who is currently in Chennai to establish the Boyd-Tandon Business School at her alma mater, Madras Christian College.

She reconnected with her childhood passion of singing which became the inception for her non-profit music label, Soul Chants Music in 2005. Chandrika has released four albums – Shivoham: The Quest, Soul March, Soul Mantra, and Soul Call. In 2011, Soul Call was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album.

While she did not win the Grammy, the recognition helped her connect with others in the category— including Béla Fleck, the winner that year — whom she has collaborated with on her latest album Ammu’s Treasures.

Of the many hats she wears, one is of a devoted grandmother who finds the time to sing to her grandchildren. ‘Ammu’ as they call her, is a term of endearment meaning love and purity.

“When my first grandson was born, I would sing shlokas and chants to him at bedtime, and as he grew up, I saw that he grasped the words, and would repeat them along with me. ” recalls Chandrika, who now has three grandchildren. 

Her repertoire of songs kept growing as her grandson’s demands did, for something new every day. Chandrika’s search for songs led her to her own childhood filled with songs in French, Greek, and English, along with the religious and peace chants in Sanskrit. She finally made the decision to record all the songs and make an album for her grandchildren to treasure. That’s how ‘Ammu’s Treasures’, a multi-language, multi-genre musical album was conceived. 

“I started this project with three musicians — a pianist, a guitar player, and a drummer. We took three days to put all the songs together. I sang 35 songs and 21 chants in quick recording sessions, but then the ideas started pouring in about which song would sound good with what instrument.” she says, fondly remembering where it all began. “Each musician brought their ideas to the table and invited musicians who they thought would make the song better.” she adds. 

She collaborated with 17 musical maestros from around the world, including Béla Fleck (American banjo), Rakesh Chaurasia (Indian flute), Jamey Haddad (global percussion), Kenny Werner (jazz piano), Dave Schroeder (Mongolian horn), and Cyro Baptista and Romero Lubambo (Brazilian rhythms) . 

“I remember Kenny played the song ‘listen to the pouring rain’ nine times, and each version was better than the last.” says Chandrika. Each musician took creative liberties and picked songs that they wanted to play for, and so each song ended up with multiple versions. Chandrika had a tough job ahead of her to put the pieces together and pick just one for each. “It only took a few days to record all the songs and all the music, but it took me a year to compile it into an album because I changed my mind a million times.” she said, laughing. 

Before the official release of the album, Chandrika’s musician friend gave it to Ukrainian refugee children in Prague. She later visited them and organised a sing-along at the Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle for all the Ukrainian families. “Since then, I’ve performed with big groups of families and children, and my agenda now is to sing with the people instead of to the people.” she says. 

Ammu’s Treasures is a collection of many genres, from Vedic chants to simple fables of goodness, like the English poem, Miller of the Dee, from 1776, or the verses from Alice in Wonderland. “The album is a hug for the world. It’s a reminder that we all have an Ammu in our lives, and we are all Ammus to each other” Chandrika says. 

To read more about Ammu’s treasures, log onto ; Stream the album on Spotify

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