4. RAQS 4.53
5.   IN ESSENCE 5.20

'NADA BRAHMA was my fourth album for Indipop Records. I recorded it during a hectic 24-month phase between 1983 and 1985 that produced a total of four albums. It was a period in my life characterised by rebellion. A time that was triggered by me less-than-happy experiences with a major record company towards the end of my contract with them as the lead singer of Monsoon (a then radical Asian fusion band).

By the time I was 17, I had glimpsed at the music industry’s potential to turn me into a machine for turning out artistic product. I refused to let myself become that. So, at 18, I signed to a tiny independent label called Indipop where I could continue my musical apprenticeship in the field of Asian fusion.

During this four-album period for Indipop, I did not perform live, decided not to release singles and did very little promotion. Consequently, I was able to devote my time exclusively to the creative process in the studio. In spite of the lack of promotion, my albums were selling well by word of mouth to a small, dedicated following around the world.

With no marketing or commercial restrictions on me, I really enjoyed the arena of musical freedom I had created. At the time, so little had been done in the Asian fusion area, particularly vocally, that the field was wide open and there were many musical ideas I wanted to explore.

For instance, on this album, Nada Brahma (Sound is Divine) is a 27-minute piece loosely based on Raga Jog. Having established the raga (fixed note scale) and deciding there would be no drums or lyrics, we went off to write the various themes and variations. We were playing around with the limits of what an audience would accept, with unusual musical arrangements and structures, and with the voice as an instrument.

I enjoyed writing by myself, but it was also good to have two other writers — Steve Coe and Martin Smith — each of whom knew my voice and were working to the same end in a musical style that was still embryonic, evolving, and which had no contemporary comparison.

Looking back, I think my willingness to push my voice creatively into new areas (which were often not ‘pretty’ vocally) was fuelled by the knowledge that I had complete creative control over the recordings. If I didn’t like the track or the final mix, Indipop couldn’t release it. It gave me the confidence to be on the edge artistically and that, in turn, provided Indipop with some unique recordings.

Sheila Chandra 1995