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How a Bus Driver Changed Madame Gandhi’s Life

by Ace Damon
How a Bus Driver Changed Madame Gandhi's Life

With & # 39; Visions & # 39; Outside now, the artist-activist talks about everything from Harvard patriarchy to queer commodification.

Every month Billboard Pride celebrates an LGBTQ act as their artist of the month. Our October selection: Madame Gandhi.

Two years ago, Los Angeles-based electronic artist and activist Madame Gandhi was in Denmark singing and spreading her message of future feminism at the Roskilde Festival. After the set, a young woman approached her at the shopping table. There was so much more than t-shirts in his mind.

"She said, 'I've been hoping to run for the Danish parliament for three years and restrained myself. But after seeing your program, I do. I'll run'," recalls Gandhi warmly. . "Last year I learned from her via Facebook that she was elected – she received the seat she was campaigning for and is fighting for climate change."

If this Danish politician can cite Gandhi's joyful and caring art as the reason she's working for a better world now, Gandhi might point to a New York school bus driver named Harrison for introducing her to the transformative power of music. when she a kindergarten named Kiran Gandhi.

"When he came to pick up each of his parents' children, he played in the classical season," she recalls with a smile. "And as soon as he got away from his parents, he went back to Hot 97 hip-hop station. Listening to Nas and Lauryn Hill … as a young man, instilled in me a feeling of empathy and storytelling. somewhere else. I loved to feel that I was learning about someone else's story. "

For many creatives, this can lead them to create inward-looking narratives that focus on their individual experiences. But people have always been political to Gandhi.

"For me, it's been the same forever. Music and feminism is all that interests me. I've had phases, but music and feminism are part of my passion and thought process since I can remember, since childhood," she say. "When I was young, music had such a positive influence – that's why I wanted to use it later in life to influence other people to be the best selves they can be."

And she freely admits that "music is a vehicle through which I convey my message. Music has always been a means to an end – it was not the end itself." This does not mean that this medium was randomly selected; It has long had a genuine affinity for playing and a worship of the music of others. Learning the drums at summer camp in her youth, she later realized that her ability to play could connect her with artists whose music inspired her. "Oh – I don't have to be just a fan, I can participate, that's so cool!" she remembers her epiphany. Naturally, as her taste strayed from artists who shook people out of conformity, she soon found herself sharing the stage (while pinching herself) with personal heroes who broke borders like M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation.

Even so, being the focal point of the band was nowhere near his mind. In fact, it wasn't until after she graduated and went viral with your bleeding run free At the London Marathon in 2015, their two passions intertwined. The measure, designed to counter the stigma of menstruation, attracted international interest and Gandhi suddenly offered offers: "People were asking me to give a speech, but also, can you play us some songs? But I had none of my own. I was like "I'm just a drummer!" Fortunately, some mentors advised her to trust her musical instincts and give her a try.

Fast forward to today. Madame Gandhi is casting Visions, your second EP, and it is an exciting race of global styles and future thinking policies. From the cheerful and spacious "queer femme love song", which is "See Me Thru", to the non-conformist Brazilian Trappist "Top Knot Turn Up," to the mischievous synths and shuffling rhythms of Fela Kuti, " Visions aims high. "It's an introspective album about being your best and serving your community," she explains.

If there seems to be a lot of musical and thematic stuff, well, there is – and she's more than aware of it. "I'm still trying to figure out how not to be so intoxicating and literal with my lyrics," she admits. "There is one aspect of being literal and clear that I derive from Fela – he wanted to make the message clear and understood by everyone. But there is a part of me …" she interrupts, looking a little reticent – but, as always , she opts for candor. "The MIA used to almost make fun of me, she said, 'Don't be so intoxicating.' And I always hear it in my head when I'm making music – like making sure I'm not being too literal and less cunning. ? "

Gandhi need not worry too much. Visions begins with "Waiting For Me," a clever mix of hip-hop and Indian polyrhythms, as it deals with climate change, capitalist excess and womxn history – but thanks to Gandhi's ineffable charm, it never sounds like pontificate. . Instead, it comfortably demonstrates that you can make people think and move their hips at the same time.

And even when she's literally preaching, it's still quite attractive. If you haven't seen her speak live yet, you can experiment with her strategic approach to releasing Visions. Although a five-song streaming studio, the CD, vinyl, and Soundcloud version includes four extra tracks from Gandhi in speaker mode, keeping everything about unconscious bias and voice on multiple stages. About the decision to release her album differently based on the platform, she explains: "At Spotify and Apple Music, people are in the playlist (songs), shuffling the playback – they are not listening to the whole body of. would work the way you would on CD or vinyl. So I didn't put the additional songs in it. "

Her insight into the music business is not shocking – she is, after all, a graduate of Harvard Business School. She readily labels the institution's business school as "the breeding ground of capitalist patriarchy," but she acknowledges that she has taught her emotional intelligence, how to read a room's body language and to be aware of her own limitations as a leader. Although she barely appreciates the way the school rewarded the loudest (usually male) voices in the room, regardless of whether they are correct, there is absolutely no hostility or disdain in her voice when she talks about studying in a system she doesn't agree with. . .

"It allowed me to criticize the types of leadership that we, as a country and culture, value and which styles we don't value, and gave rise to my entire musical project. So it's worth it," she says with a laugh.

And in fact, the world could use more business-savvy activists and artists. Getting indie to have control over art and message requires planning, and Gandhi has a strategy. "It's important for any indie to diversify their source of income," says Gandhi. "When I don't come out of an album, the things that bring in income are synchronization, public speaking, drumming, DJing, producing other people, punctuating. The best thing you can do is diversify your source of income so that each of these sources are coming back to reinvest in making more and better art. "

Having a firm foundation also gives you the power to turn down the wrong opportunities. "When a brand is licensing our music, I ask, 'What is the leadership team? What are they doing for female, non-binary or queer people?' And at all levels – at the level. of the suite, at the employee level, at the manufacturing level. "

As her perspective converges on some brands, she acknowledges "there were times when I had to let things happen. How can you talk about something and then not really do it?"

Well, some certainly do just that, but she is reliably putting her money where her mouth is. She works only with companies (American and international) whose clothing is sustainably manufactured when it comes to apparel products, and is careful that her music collaborators keep values ​​in line with hers. For example, she's a self-taught funk dance fan, but admits she's not so excited about the way some gender practitioners talk about women. So, before partnering with Rio de Janeiro producer Ruxell for "Top Knot Turn Up," she made sure he felt comfortable and supported his lyrics and concept "the future is feminine" (for the record, he hugged her completely).

"There is no situation where the beat is so incredible that it makes up for the fact that they are using the word b to refer to women," she says bluntly. "The moment I hear that, even though it has become a normal part of our culture to call that word to women, even if it should not degrade, I do not resonate with it."

She is equally uncompromising when it comes to her strangeness. Gandhi acknowledged the value of celebration and representation, but was skeptical of much of Stonewall's 50th riot.

"With commodification, that's all that marks all brands. I don't want to bastard my madness into participating in an unauthentic partnership," she says.

And she doesn't reserve her skepticism just for companies – she feels more comfortable applying it to the wider LGBTQIA + community. "I identify myself a lot as weird," says Gandhi. "But" the rainbow "never connected with me. Much of the LGBTQIA + movement is very powerful and so positive … but many aspects of the rainbow look like a previous generation. the conversation is about being weird, rejecting gender binary, exploring all different kinds of relationship structures – polyamory is so common in my group of friends. This is the conversation that's so interesting. So, yes, we have to fight for many basic rights, but we will keep moving forward and keep evolving. "

Today, this personal evolution continues for Gandhi with Visions, a short album that is a thoughtful ray …

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