Most Powerful Women

A Grammy-nominated executive strikes again

April 15, 2013: 9:00 AM ET

Chandrika Tandon, financial advisor (and sister of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi), talks about her new album -- and work-life balance.130414221930-chandrika-tandon-240xa

FORTUNE -- There are plenty of executives who also are accomplished musicians and performers. Venture capitalist Roger McNamee leads a band called Moonalice. Former Warner Music Group and Seagram CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr, is a published songwriter. But among prominent business people, only Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon can boast a 2011 Grammy nomination.

Tandon, the founder of financial advisory firm Tandon Capital Associates, didn't win for Soul Call, her album of Sanskrit chants. (Banjo player Bela Fleck got the Grammy in the Best Contemporary World Music Album category that year.) But the 58-year-old restructuring expert, who is releasing a new album this week, says that she isn't making music for the accolades. "I'm not looking for fame, I'm not looking for fortune," Tandon explains. "I have purity of purpose."

That purpose -- to share her modern, multicultural take on Indian music with global audiences -- has often taken a backseat to her professional career. The former McKinsey partner, who started Tandon Capital in 1992, says that early in her career she struggled to squeeze vocal training and practices into her regimen of international business trips, family duties and non-profit and educational board obligations.  When her daughter was an infant, Tandon used to drive two hours on Saturday mornings (each way) to train with a master who was a professor of ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University -- leaving at 4 a.m. to take a two-hour lesson at 6 a.m. and get home before her child awoke.

She renewed her commitment to her music about 12 years ago. "I had an epiphany," Tandon recalls. "You have one life. You have to create more balance." She still has to fit practice and lessons between business obligations, but now when she's in India, she persuades a couple of masters to travel with her and teach her between her engagements.

Tandon grew up in Chennai, India, the oldest of three children. Middle child Indra Nooyi is CEO of PepsiCo (PEP) and No. 2 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list--and in her musical youth, played guitar in an all-female rock band. Indra and Chandrika's brother is a hedge fund executive in the U.S.. Tandon says she "sang before I spoke." And her entry in her high school yearbook read: "She killed us all softly with her song." That's a reference to her fondness for playing and singing the Roberta Flack hit.

Her new album features nine tracks inspired by "Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram." This Hindu devotional was chanted by Indians who participated in Mahatma Ghandi's Salt March, a 1930 protest of British salt taxes.

Bringing together more than 75 musicians playing traditional Indian instruments and western instruments, the album reflects Tandon's wide-ranging musical tastes and influences. The tracks are inflected with the sounds of bossa nova, rhumba, and calypso, as well as Indian folks and classic traditions.

While Tandon's strategy and restructuring work hasn't influenced her music, her music sometimes bleeds into her professional life. "The happiest moments of my life are tied to music," she says, adding with a laugh: "Sometimes my clients will say to me, 'Are you humming?'"

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Stephanie Mehta
Stephanie Mehta
Deputy Managing Editor , Fortune

Stephanie N. Mehta is the deputy managing editor at Fortune, overseeing technology coverage for Fortune. She also is a co-chair of the annual Brainstorm Tech conference, an annual gathering of tech and media thinkers. Previously, Mehta spent seven years as a tech writer at Fortune covering the telecom and media industries. She also has worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

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