Create & Cultivate 100: Music: Madame Ghandi



photo creditL: Molly Matalon

photo creditL: Molly Matalon

Kiran Gandhi, known by her stage name Madame Gandhi, is an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles.

Having gained recognition as the former drummer for M.I.A. and as the iconic free-bleeding runner at the 2015 London Marathon, Madame Gandhi now writes music that elevates and celebrates activism focuses on female empowerment and Fourth-wave feminism.

"I am a drummer," she says, "whose mission is to elevate and celebrate the female voice."

Her debut solo EP, Voices, which she released under the name Madame Gandhi late last year and describes as “electrofeminist.” It is a wonderful intro to her beats and ideology, declaring in a  a spoken-word breakdown on album closer “The Future Is Female”: “I want to live in a world that is collaborative/A world that is emotionally intelligent/A world in which we are linked and not ranked!”

Did we mention she has her M.B.A from Harvard? No, we didn't. We'll drop that in now.

In a recent interview you mention that the point of your work, "is actually to make somebody else feel joyful and elevated and inspired when they leave my show.” How do keep yourself joyful and inspired to be able to do this for your audience?

I keep myself joyful by reading books that inspire me to be my best self, meditating and repeating positive thoughts, sending love to others, running, and being productive by building towards my goal of taking my ideas and writing them into music that can contribute to the joy of others!

In your song The Future is Female, you have a lyric that reads, "To me, “The Future is female” means that no longer will female qualities be subordinated to male qualities.” We love this. What female qualities do you see reigning in the future?

Increased value placed on emotional intelligence, collaboration instead of competitiveness, leading with compassion instead of ego and finally thinking about how much we can give instead of how much we can receive. All people possess a mix of masculine and feminine energies but I believe that the deeply ingrained misogyny that still plagues our society today prevents us from loving and valuing what feminine energy brings to the table. I argue that bringing in more of the divine feminine is the very thing that just might save our society where hypermachismo culture fails us.

Your music has been said to seamlessly weave together flavors of multiple genres from hip hop and pop to electronic. Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

My biggest musical inspirations are the Spice Girls, Fela Kuti, tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, Thievery Corporation, Santigold, TV on the Radio, the Dirty Projectors and M.I.A.

So much of your work is focused on women empowerment and encouraging women to own their voice. Hypothetically speaking, if you had a son in the future what would you want him to understand about female empowerment and how he can contribute to the movement?

I think and dream about this all the time and it scares me. I don’t know how I would raise a son in this world. I suppose I practice on my little brother haha. He is 8 years younger than me and I take a strategy of both encouraging and nurturing him, while educating him and challenging some of his inherent privilege. The nurturing and encouraging aspect is not only because I love him dearly, but also to embody the very style of leadership I wish we valued more, and prove its enormous power. My brother now sends me articles about equality, engages in discussions with me about modern feminism, asks me questions all the time, navigates his relationship with his girlfriend through a lens of partnership and is very good at criticizing and identifying problematic social norms. I can only hope my son would be similar. 

Your career path has involved a few different industries. How have you successfully navigated the business and music industries while uplifting female empowerment?

I have only ever worked in music. I served as Interscope Record’s first ever digital analyst, then I got my MBA from Harvard, and then I worked at Spotify as a consultant after school. My intention was to learn the business so well so that when I created my own music, I would never be exploited and I could create on my own terms. If you make radical feminist music but then have to rely on the very gatekeepers I am criticizing to get the music out, the project would never work. I wanted to educate myself so much so that I could run as much of the project on my own, control the narrative, strategy and finances. This is deeply feminist in its intent because it rejects exploitation, rewards creativity and has an end goal of getting a message of healing and empowerment out instead of making millions of dollars. 

What does it mean today to be a liberated boss madame?

That I follow my intuition and feel free and brave enough to express myself, own my voice and feel safe enough to be as authentic as possible. 

What is the best piece of real talk advice you’ve ever received? 

"Keep it moving!"

If you could change the conversation around one subject right now, what would it be?

Sex positivity!! I think if we want to combat sexual assault, we have to also include sex positivity and a joyful, educative focus on female sexuality! We have the best sex organs, we have so many ways we can receive pleasure, I want us to feel like we know our own anatomy inside and out, we know what turns us on and what doesn’t, and moreover we learn how to communicate that to our partners no matter what gender identity they are. I want to educate men that they absolutely must receive enthusiastic, joyful consent, read our body language more intuitively and ask when they don’t know, and understand that the best sex is not only about receive but about giving! Sexual assault, harassment and rape in this country must end, and I think a large part of the antidote is removing the stigma surrounding female sexual liberation. Therein lies some of our deepest power. 

What’s your superpower?

I am the rays of the sun, joyful, positive and hopeful, and I will keep shining for you! I want to be a ball of shining love energy that you can come into when you need! This is what the female energy represents to me - healing, life, love. It’s why I love the color yellow so much. My first name, “Kiran”, means first ray of sunlight in the morning in Hindi, and I step into this name as much as I can. It’s a personal reminder to lead with empathy, unconditional love and fearlessness. My mom is the most beautiful example of this.

What do you sing in shower when you’ve had a bad day?

Fela Kuti - “No Agreement”