We speak to musician Madame Gandhi about gender inclusivity and feminism in the electronic music industry
LA-based power-house Madame Gandhi heads to Bengaluru to perform at BUDx BLR. The first edition of Bengaluru chapter of BUDX creates a dialogue about inclusivity, activism and identity. The artiste, who has toured with MIA, will play a live-drum set along with her electronic music. “It will be a fem-positive DJ set where I showcase some of my favourite female artistes and male artistes who support women. We’ll have tracks from Brazil, Berlin, Nigeria and India of course and some DC go-go music, a rare funky African-influenced beat from Washington DC,” reveals the fourth wave feminist, who has been championing the cause of female and queer participation in the arts and music world.
At the event, she will also be on a panel titled, The Future is Female, with Aneesha Kotwani of She Said So, a global community of women in the music industry. The panel will discuss feminism and gender inclusivity in independent music. We chat with her before the gig:
What are you expecting from the BUDX BLR?
Well, if this DJ set is anything like the last time I played in Bengaluru, it’s going to be crazy! I did a DJ set there in the December of 2017 and it was simply amazing. It was wild, everyone had such a good time, the dance floor was completely packed and everyone was going just wild from my two-hour set.
You know, as a DJ when your audience is really giving you positive energy and excitement and enthusiasm it’s so fun to feed off of that and keep wanting to sustain the happiness level and the energy; so I can only hope that this set at BUDX will be like that.
Since this year’s theme is about female empowerment. What are your views on how inclusive the Indian independent music industry is?
Well, one thing I’m really excited about is to work with Pardafash in her electronic music collective in Bengaluru, her collective is called Consolidate. She is the only woman in the collective but all of the other men who are in the collective as artistes are very supportive of her work and definitely help her elevate and spread her message.
I think that kind of collaboration and sort of equality is really what we’re working towards where women don’t have to feel like their femaleness isn’t what comes first, their artistry is. I think it’s important to recognise that women bring different things to the table than men and so there should be an enthusiasm around their work instead of us teaching the women where they have to catch up to the men or to aspire to what the men are doing in order to fit in.
I think one thing I also love about the Indian scene is the freedom of it, you know? I definitely see it in Bengaluru. I think in the bigger cities like Mumbai and Delhi, Bollywood culture is still really pervasive and overwhelming so I would imagine it's harder to find the local underbelly, although I know that it’s there. But I think the way the independent music scene will continue to thrive is for everyone who’s in it to recognise the value of diverse voices which often times includes women.
Where is it lacking? And what can be done to change it?
Technology is expensive, so you know, we have to remember to invest in women to build educational centers that teach everyone how to play these instruments. I think that YouTube is democratising electronic music just by making videos and tutorials available for anyone to learn, but as the adage goes if you can’t see it you can’t be it. Which means that if we don’t see ourselves in electronic music as young brown women we tend to not go for it. We tend to think that it’s a ‘bro club’ kind of thing. So I think, it’s about whichever women who are in it right now bringing up the next group of women with them and really building collectives around female DJs and producers.
And then it’s also on the men to really enthusiastically value the contributions of their female collaborators and contemporaries and to bring them into the fold. They need to realise when it’s only men in the studio and say ‘hey, isn’t it kind of weird that we don’t have any female instrumentalists, any female producers, any female engineers? We don’t have any female vocalists? You know, we might be missing out’. I think the best music is made from diverse voices because you end up appealing to a wider array of people. So that’s sort of the mission in my opinion and where any independent music scene, not only India’s, can step it up.
And finally, what does the future look like?
What a wide question, let me think of a narrower channel I would want to answer this question in. I think it really excites me to collaborate with folks who both, share my value system when it comes to gender liberation and also share my hunger to be the best at music tech that I can be. And you know, I think for me, at least I can answer this question, like what’s the future of my industry looking like and I think it is global and I think it is diverse. I think it values folks of all backgrounds, when I say all backgrounds not only do I mean gender diversity but also International diversity, diverse in abilities. Not only collaborating with folks who identify as able bodied but welcoming folks who might be in a wheelchair and can play violin excellently or collaborating with people of different ages.
Sometimes we tend to leave out some of the most excellent and seasoned musicians
who might be in later stages of their career and actually are way better than any of us. We don’t think to reach out to them and they don’t think that the young people want to work with them. We kind of miss out on this really rich experience that could happen.
What are you working on next?
I’m about to put out my next EP in a series of three (this will be the second one). The first one was called Voices, this one is called Visions, and it’ll be out in July 2019. It’s a five- song collection of my vision for feminism and my vision for love.