In 1982, no-one had ever seen a British Asian teenager in a sari
singing Indian music on Top of the Pops – until Chandra appeared, with a raga-influenced single that would inspire musicians for decades
Adecade after Bowie’s Starman moment on Top of the Pops, a south Asian teenage girl extended a hand from BBC Television Centre to her own audience of dreamers. It was 1982 and a sari-clad Sheila Chandra was fronting Monsoon, whose debut single Ever So Lonely, an otherworldly confection of tablas and sitars topped by Chandra’s ethereal voice, had hit No 12 in the UK singles chart. Mesmerised second-generation Asians, battling the dynamics of our parents’ cultural values while trying to fit in amid a climate of racial hostility, almost fell off our sofas.
“So many people, especially from the Asian community, have contacted me over the years to tell me how significant it was for them,” says Chandra. “It was revelatory for younger Asians to see one of their own on TV.”