Sheila Chandra

Released 22 September 1996

  1. ABoneCroneDrone 1
  2. ABoneCroneDrone 2
  3. ABoneCroneDrone 3
  4. ABoneCroneDrone 4
  5. ABoneCroneDrone 5
  6. ABoneCroneDrone 6

Liner notes

This album is the third in a trilogy for Real World. Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices was about the birth of an idea to explore the way in which vocal techniques could lead between each other, and how it would be possible to cross those boundaries within a single word or a single phrase.

The Zen Kiss became a kind of flowering of that. So many people have asked me where the inspiration for the idea came from that, in a way, I’m going back to the land of the unborn on this album, the fallow point, in order to answer them. And also to the concept of the crone with the cauldron, to the cyclic and melting pot nature of everything within the cauldron. Of course, the crone represents the creator.

When you set up a structure like a drone, not only do you set up a cyclic principle but you also set up a melting pot because, in the very bones of the drone, if you like, are the harmonics which provide the inspiration for the melodies. Harmonics are magical things and are omnipresent on this album.

Photo credit: Aditya Bhattacharya.

People who don’t create regularly from scratch, critics or journalists who interpret others’ work for example, in my experience, find it difficult to understand that most creators do not create from a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but that they create from a place of nothingness where things spontaneously arise. That is the place of the unknowable and in our lives it is very difficult to live with what is not known (yet), even though “I don’t know” is essential to true change and new growth. Instead, we’re taught to find the answers to everything, and we have to quantify everything, we have to have the cash flow chart for the next five years!

Things don’t happen like that, but we run our lives as if they do and that’s why our lives break down. And when our lives break down who do we turn to? We turn to the artist to express our pain, we turn to the artist to provide inspiration, but I think we turn to the artist because on a psychological level we know that the artist is comfortable living with the unknown. The artist has had to face the unknown, had to make a living today out of something which didn’t exist yesterday, and we take comfort from that.

If a piece of work is derivative, we know where it came from, we can spot the influences. But often, when someone comes up with something outlandish, instead of concentrating on the fact that, say, seventy percent of it is new and original, we tend to concentrate on the thirty percent of the structure that we do understand from the past. There is almost a resistance to experiencing new things in a vulnerable and fresh way. (Certainly musically I think we are hooked on familiarity.)

No piece of work is totally original. I use the same twelve notes as everybody else, I use a lot of vocal ornaments from various traditions, and so people have hung onto that, in a way, because the rest of it is rather a bumpy ride. With this album, that hanging on is not so possible. Sheila Chandra

There are some things that relate back to the previous albums. With The Zen Kiss I talked about “being sung”— this album focuses on the experience of the listener being between my ears or hearing what I hear, which is a way of getting closer to the experience of “being sung”. The album is incomplete whilst it lacks the attentive listener’s experience, and that makes it much more like performance art. Although the album uses the same structures and the same techniques as The Zen Kiss and Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices, this time it puts you in the place of the creator.

I have a single skill, from which many others have grown, and that skill is to be able to connect to a world of potential, swim alongside it, learn from it, and birth its ideas into this world. There is something going on under great creative works that we all need to face— not the blank page, but the darkness of potential, where you can hear little whispers of ideas or gifts of insight that the creator births into the real world. I want the listener to be able to hear those whispers of things for themselves, and that is why ABoneCroneDrone attempts to place the listener inside the creator’s cauldron.

I’ve become so attuned to what’s going on within drones that now I sometimes hear fully formed melodies in them, played on appropriate instruments, and these “performances” don’t usually relate to my current level of skill as a writer or singer— they are often far beyond my skills— nor do they sound like any composition I can recall, but they carry the same joy that I experience from any brilliant performance. It’s rather like “seeing things”.

Sometimes I could swear that what I’m experiencing exists in reality for anyone else to hear.

Photo credit: Aditya Bhattacharya.

On this album I’m attempting to give the listener access to this experience, what’s inside me and to the place that I connect to, as far as I possibly can. One could say that it’s impossible to do that, it is impossible to give you the fullest access to my imagination and to what I hear as it happens. But what I can give you is some sense of what I feel, some sense of what I hear a split second before a melody hits me, and I can perhaps get your own imagination to play tricks on you.

In order to do this I’m putting what I hear under a magnifying glass. When you walk up to a stone— it’s grey and just sits there. But when you put a magnifying glass over it, suddenly the stone has texture, it’s got surface, it’s got history— it’s a world within a world. That is the kind of sight that I have when I look at a drone all the time. But I recognise that many people see drones the way I see a lump of rock. (Six lumps of rock— is that an album?!) So I’ve had to put in an artificial magnifying glass— in this case my voice and various production techniques which I’ve used to enhance the harmonics, the whispers of melodies that I’ve actually heard in these drones. I’ve listened to the harmonics and by playing with several arrangement psychologies and vocal approaches attempted to pull the listener in by singing what I’ve heard. But I’ve kept it very simple— this time I’m letting the drones speak.



  • For Sheila Chandra, the power of the drone holds no limits. Billboard (USA)
  • a kind of somnambulistic heaven... a quiet kind of beauty Q Magazine (UK)
  • With this final part of her trilogy, she’s produced her bravest, if least commercial, album yet. The Guardian (UK)
  • Chandra has created the DIY album, but you can only get out of it as much as you’re prepared to put in. Like it or not, it’'ll leave you speechless. MOJO (UK)
  • Chandra'’s work is literally entrancing: simultaneously eerie and soothing, ancient and modern. The Daily Telegraph (UK)


Produced by Steve Coe. Mixed at Real World Studios, Wiltshire, England, January 1996. Mixing engineer Stuart Bruce. Assistant mixing engineer Jacquie Turner.

Recorded at Christchurch Hall Studios, Clifton, Bristol. Recorded by Andy Allen, March/April 1995.
Additional recording during December 1995 at Brave New World, Pfaffenheck, Germany. Engineer Stuart Bruce. Mastered by Ian Cooper at Metropolis, London

All drones played or sung by Sheila Chandra and Steve Coe, except guitar harmonics on ‘ABoneCroneDrone 6’ by Stuart Bruce. Wood and metal didgeridoo on ‘ABoneCroneDrone 2’ by Jim Mills. Bagpipe drones on ‘ABoneCroneDrone 3’ by Paul James.

A Real World Design. Graphic design Anna-Karin Sundin, Martha Ladly. Black and white photographs Aditya Bhattacharya. Colour photographs Stephen Lovell-Davis.

Further Listening

  • Moonsung (A Real World Retrospective)

    Sheila Chandra

    Released 05 April 1999

    Starting off with a reprise of ‘Ever So Lonely’, the Top 20 pop hit she had as a teenager with her band Monsoon, Moonsung gathers together the finest moments from the three albums that Anglo-Indian singer Sheila Chandra made for Real World in the 1990s.
  • Gifted: Women of the World

    Various Artists

    Released 08 October 2000

    This album brings together nine extraordinary female singers from around the globe to celebrate and explore the themes of women’s experience – from the contemporary day-to-day to that of the all-powerful goddess. From different cultures, in different languages and with their own individual spirituality and sensuality, these singers have each created a unique and beautiful statement.

Further reading

The Zawose Queens announce tour and share ‘Mapendo’ from forthcoming album Maisha

Pendo & Leah Zawose will perform at festivals including Glastonbury Festival and WOMAD.

The Zawose Queens from Tanzanian musical dynasty announce debut album Maisha

The Zawose Queens, Pendo and Leah, are the daughter and grand-daughter of the late Dr. Hukwe Zawose.

Exploring Colombian artist Savan’s music inspired by Yagé medicine ceremonies

The new Real World X release is an eight-track aural journey to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Track of the day: ‘AmmA’ by Bab L’ Bluz

'AmmA' draws on music from north-east Morocco and influences from Tunisia and Algeria.