Madame Gandhi: Envision a more positive future
Bright yellow is her trademark and lots of positive energy. Kiran Gandhi alias Madame Gandhi started her career as a touring drummer with M.I.A. in 2013. In 2015 her activism went viral when Gandhi ran the London marathon free-bleeding during her period. A year later the queer musician, yet to be known for her drum skills, self-published her first EP “Voices”, an immersive fusion of electronic music and female voice. October last year her second EP “Visions” followed, which is a vehicle for Gandhi exploring themes of fourth-wave feminism. She presents faster songs, including more drums and spoken words then the first ones.
Kiran’s life was influenced early by music including the 90s hiphop and later the Spice Girls. Today that sound is a mixture of vocals, percussion, and electronic soundscapes. Born and raised mainly in the US, Gandhi stays true to her roots coming regularly to India, where she’s performing at big music festivals and small gigs as well.
On her last journey to India, Natalie Mayroth joined one of her events, an intimate live drum DJ set.
Natalie Mayroth: Kiran, the first time I saw you performing in India was 2017 at the desert festival Magnetic Fields, this time in Soho House Mumbai. Do you like to play here?
Kiran Gandhi: Every time I leave, I can’t wait to get on the plane to come back again. There’s something unique for me having grown up between Mumbai and New York City to share my music not only in the states. As a child in Mumbai, I had such a fun, vibrant and colorful time. I remember being really musical when I used to live in Mumbai. I was obsessed with Punjabi folk music Bhangra and mixing it with some hiphop and pop that was coming out of the states at the time. When I play here, I feel an enthusiasm for the DJ sets that I do, for the drumming, empowerment, and liberation at large.
A good year ago homosexuality was legalized in Indian again. Did you celebrate this event like many others, too?
I was in India when the law was passed. On paper homosexuality is legal, that is a huge win, of course. But it’s also about the cultural acceptance and normalizing that. For myself, I try to be as open and liberated with my fluid attitude as possible. On a deeper level, India in a pre-colonized time was very fluid and in how it understood and shaped gender. There was a larger acceptance of people living on the spectrum in a freer way. And so even in the music video for the Song “waiting for me”, that we just shot I wanted to celebrate that in an elegant way and that’s reflected in the cast that we chose. (That video will be out in April.) I feel my music is received in India and I gained a lot from enhancing my spirituality, drumming and musical sensibility.
Since then you have had a musical journey behind you, launching your second EP “Visions” last year. Where is Madame Gandhi standing now?
Getting ready to start working on my next album. I wanted to finish the last music video for my recent EP visions. That’s sort of my last work on this album and then I’ll be transitioning gears into focusing on „Vibration“, the third EP in this set.
You have already worked for Interscope, a major label in the US, so why do you prefer publishing your music on your own?
I like having control and be able to release music on iTunes just because then, the music is like the best that I can make. And I like being able to take inspiration that comes to me in real-time and then release it. So that’s why I tend to stay independent. I’m not necessarily against having label support beyond just the funding. I think working with people who are experts in their field and feeling like it’s a real partnership can only enhance the visibility of the project. So it’s something that I’m open to in the long-term.
I like your music because it’s strong, and sensitive at the same time.
For me, sensitivity is strength. That’s kind of what I try to promote in my music and it gives a lot of the bitch archetype that is now permeating pop culture feminism. And while that’s super needed, I don’t think there is enough of showing the power of vulnerability and leading from your femme and being strong in your emotional intelligence and intuitive leadership solid. So that’s the kind theme that I aim to promote and share my music.
What role does activism play in your work? And which of your songs reflects this to you the most?
There a few, most definitely the song “The Future is Female“, which just crossed a million streams on Spotify, which felt really good. I would count in also „Top not turn up“, „Her” and „Young Indian” to the list of the most activist-forward. At the same time a song „Like see me through” with the visuals showing the tenderness of a female to female relationships, reflects that to me. It’s also something deeply rooted in my activism because I wanted to show what it looks like when two women fall in love without showing any kind of nudity or pervert sexuality. I want these people to relate to the sensitiveness of falling in love and enjoying those early moments of our relationship and romance.
At your DJ set, you were wearing this nice t-shirt with the words “Let boys be feminine“ this reminds me of a Mumbai-based NGO, which is working with young men to show them, other role models. What was your intention?
I want to make my feminism accessible. I’ve always led from a really positive place I’ve always wanted femininity regardless of your gender identities using those values and not value just because of our sex and sexuality but valued as a style of leadership and the way I did business in this world. So “Let boys be feminine“ is a pretty radical statement that I actually find a lot of my fans and audience are drawn to. So it was a pleasure to share it with folks, who attended my DJ set.
One of your newest songs is called „Bad Habits“, but actually it’s about empowerment. What are yours?
Bad Habits is about liberation and about being your best self. My bad habits are being late to things, eating badly when I’m stressed out or sometimes are not managing my mood. For example, if a listening doesn’t go my way. Nevertheless, I’m trying my best to work on my own inner peace and not being irritable. That’s something that I almost grew up with the kind of seeing that in an Indian household. Aggression and having a temper is something normalized, but I think that we have to combat that and go back to more Indian spiritual route of complete relaxation and almost non-attachment to the way life goes so that we can say peaceful and stay full of love not only for ourselves but for others.
You are savvily traveling between the US and India. Is there any chance to catch you in Europa sooner or later?
I spent some time in 2017 in Copenhagen and played at Roskilde. In 2019 even, too, which was wonderful. When my project grows, I would love to come back to Europe and continue to do bigger shows.