Sheila Chandra Music Biography

"Even if Sheila Chandra never sings another note again [and she probably never will], she has certainly achieved artistic supremacy, the like of which lesser mortals can only aspire to...a once-in-a-generation.. in a lifetime.. kind of vocalist"
World Music Report

“With a dexterous tonal range that's as bright as lightning and bold as a summer cloudburst, she weaves a near-climatic spell so lovely and haunting it becomes its own environment.”

In 1981 Sheila Chandra met Steve Coe in London and became the lead singer of Asian fusion band Monsoon which then signed to Polygram. 

Monsoon had a UK Top Ten hit with their first single “Ever So Lonely” when Sheila was 16.
After Monsoon disbanded, Sheila signed Steve Coe’s Indipop label in 1984 and went on to make her first four solo albums in two years.
Sheila retired when she was 20 to take a sabbatical that lasted 4 years and re-emerged with her fifth solo album on Indipop.
In 1991 Sheila decided to give concerts for the first time and developed her distinctive solo voice and drone approach — drawing on vocal cultures from around the world — so that she could perform alone on stage.
Sheila formed her own music production company and went on to write a trilogy of albums in this style, each of which she licensed to Real World as one-offs, in order to retain creative control.
In 1999, to mark their 10th anniversary, Real World put out “Moonsung” — a retrospective collection drawn from the trilogy.
Sheila signed to Indipop for a one-off album “This Sentence is True” (The previous sentence is false) which is released April 2001 by Indipop/Shakti (Narada).
Jakatta, fresh from their success with ‘American Dream’ used Sheila’s 1982 ‘Ever So Lonely’ vocals and completely reconstruct the track underneath. The resulting single is released in January 2002 and reaches Number 8 in the UK charts.
Sheila sang ‘Breath of Life’ on ‘The Two Towers’ soundtrack by Howard Shore – the second in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson trilogy of films.
In 2007 Sheila returned to live performance after a gap of 14 years, but developed Burning Mouth Syndrome (which causes pain for hours after she sings or speaks) which curtails her singing career.
Sheila signed her first book to Vermilion Books (Random House) entitled ‘Banish Clutter Forever – How the toothbrush principle will change your life‘ published in 2010.
Watkins publishes Sheila’s second book ‘Organizing Your Creative Career’ in 2017 with a further revised edition in 2019
In 2022, the BBC included a signed copy of Monsoon’s ‘Ever So Lonely’ single in their 100 objects from 100 years of the BBC collection.

Sheila Chandra - UK Chart Placings

Mar 1982


Ever So Lonely

Jun 1982



Feb 2002


Ever So Lonely
Rulin’ Records/Ministry of Sound

Shortcut Recommended Listening

A Real World Retrospective Real World 1999

The Indipop Retrospective
Indipop/Narada 2003

Third Eye Deluxe Edition
Cherry Red 2022

If you are sourcing material to play, please be aware that there are several remixes of Monsoon’s “Ever So Lonely”. If you want the original 1982 Top Ten single, you’ll find the 12″ on CD1 track 6 and the 7″ radio edit version on CD2 track 13 of the 2022 Cherry Red reissue of Third Eye.

Description of Music

Asian influenced World Fusion. Strongly melodic, ornate vocal, often lyricless starting in pop and moving album by album through fusion-based solo voice and drone, to more lateral cutting edge soundscapes. As an artist has ignored trends, (most albums at the time of release had no contemporary comparison) and has tried instead to define the boundaries of world music and her own voice. Highly distinctive vocal approach. A pioneer.

Career Path and Significance

Worked exclusively in Asian Fusion in for almost three decades. Was the first Asian woman to appear on Top of the Pops in 1982 with Monsoon’s worldwide hit ‘Ever So Lonely’ and proudly wore a sari and bindi at a time when there were few Asians and few positive representations of Asians in the UK mainstream media. Was the only full-time artist in Asian Fusion in the 80’s.

A self-taught musician and writer. Made her writing debut in 1984 on her second solo album ‘Quiet’. Apart from her start with ‘Monsoon’ (signed to Phonogram) has worked with independents or small labels in order to retain artistic freedom. Has not generally favoured remixes (a few illicit ones have slipped through) and has never released a single as a solo artist. Manages herself. Only played live for 2 years in the early 90’s, but returned briefly to live performance in the mid noughties until vocal stamina problems and pain issues forced her to retire .

In 2001 ‘Billboard’ stated that ‘In the past five years a new round of second generation British Asian Musicians have emerged… all owe a debt of gratitude to this 36 year old singer’s pioneering work’.

In 2022 the BBC included a signed copy of ‘Ever So Lonely’ in its 100 objects from 100 years of BBC history collection.


Typically sang completely alone onstage with the occasional taped ‘Drone’ (a constant note) as her only accompaniment, drawing on the ‘fusion within a single vocal line’ material found on the Real World trilogy of albums.

Voice Problems/Disability

Developed vocal stamina issues after an emergency operation in 1992 to save her sight as a clumsy intubation during the procedure scarred her vocal chords. Then developed Burning Mouth Syndrome in 2009 for which there is no known cause or cure. The result of these two conditions together is pain that lasts for hours or days if she speaks or sings.
Communicates largely by email, instant messenger, text and handwritten notes, although she has developed RSI from relying on written communication so heavily. Despite the pain, she does speak sometimes to ensure that her vocal mechanism does not completely atrophy. Describes the condition as being “like having a really bad PAYG mobile with hardly any credit on it” and plans the amount of time she talks around the amount of pain she thinks she can bear that day/week. On the upside, she can now write notes really, really fast.
Scroll to Top