Learn more about our director, Violin Chandru, violinist, composer and string arranger .
With a credits list that includes such luminaries as George Harrison, The Cure, Ravi Shankar, Talvin Singh, Björk, Pepe Habichuela, Nitin Sawhney and Guy Sigsworth, it is of little surprise that Violin Chandru is one of the finest, most in-demand violinists and string arrangers of his genre and generation.
Chandru’s music training is, by no means, an ordinary story. He started learning and training as a vocalist not long after this third birthday but, with his father concerned that he may lose his way of expressing music when his voice broke, switched to the violin three years later.
He learned under his father’s tutelage – he being the local music teacher and it was scales, scales and more scales – with the watchwords of his father as true to this day as it was way back when, ‘If you get your scales right, you can do anything…’ His methods may not have come direct from the Yehudi Menhuin school but they were effective; he used to attach a nail to the wall and on the nail hung a sling in which the young Chandru rested his chin in order that he didn’t doze off while practising his scales at four in the morning before a full school day. Every time he nodded off, the sling jerked him awake and it was back to his scales, scales and more scales.
Having had several mentors over the years but no other formal training, Chandru – to this day – draws deep on the well of musical knowledge that his father instilled within him.
Chandru’s early musical career was spent combing film work – mainly in Bangalore and Chennai– with a burgeoning recording career. Indeed, during this period, his was a prolific output with a staggering collection of over four hundred recording to his name. He arrived in Britain during 1991.
Throughout the early part of that decade, Chandru combined his own recording work and burgeoning string arrangement career with teaching at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in London. This met with such a degree of success that his pupils performed regularly in the capital’s most prestigious venues: The Royal Albert Hall, Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Festival Hall.
During this period, Chandru worked alongside Ravi Shankar on George Harrison’s Chants of India album as well as adding his own, matchless, violin to – amongst many others – The Cure’s Numb; Talvin Singh’s Mercury Music Prize winning OK album and Nitin Sawhney’s Displacing The Priest record.
By the late nineties, Chandru was not just in exceptional demand as a solo violinist but also for his string arrangements that fused east and west in a hitherto unimagined manner – from which Strings of India and Bollywood Strings was born.
His arrangements have been featured prominently on albums by Björk, Frou Frou, Kiki Dee and Nitin Sawhney – most especially on Prophesy, his critically acclaimed follow-up to the Mercury Music Prize nominated Beyond Skin (on which Chandru also featured).
Chandru and the Bollywood Strings also collaborated with the renowned Flamenco player, Pepe Habichuela on the album Yerbaguena, released in 2001 about which Daniel Muñoz of Flamenco-world.com wrote:
The Hindu musicians adapt easily to the compass of flamenco: their rhythmic language is far more complex than that of flamenco, so that seguiriyas sounds with impossible percussive phrasing and melodies that criss-cross in harmonies that make them seem familiar. Chandru, plays as if he were speaking straight to Pepe. His language is fluid and precise.
Chandru has subsequently work with Lamya – signed to Clive Davis’ J Records – on her Learning From Falling album together with a number of collaborative recordings with Dana Gillespie, work with Rai-maestro Cheb Mami, Richard Horrowitz, The High Fidelity and working on Nitin Sawhney’s 2003 release, Human as well as, touring the UK with the Britten Sinfonia performing pieces written by Sawhney, AR Rahman & Steve Reich – a stint that culminated in a sold out performance at the Festival Hall to both rapturous critical and audience acclaim.
In 2011, Chandru released his own album of string arrangements called “Widescreen”. Having spent the last 50 years learning, living and breathing music, speaking through the voice of his violin and the language of music, Chandru has been desperate to share his vision of what music would be if strings could talk. “Widescreen” is an album containing original compositions which he has worked on over the last few years, exploring the capability of the string family to tell stories.
Nowadays based in Britain and India, Chandru also owns and runs SA Recording Studio in Bangalore where the majority of his unique string arrangements are recorded under his direction, using the finest orchestral and individual players drawn from three Indian states. Indeed, it is not uncommon for Chandru to record orchestra’s with string-strengths of over 100 players to enable him to create his inimitable sound.