As a musician, activist, thinker, and speaker, Kiran Gandhi, known as Madame Gandhi, lives by her phrase, “Own your voice, don’t be afraid! The Future Is Female...Own your voice, don’t be afraid, be brave!”
Having grown up in New York City to two fairly traditional Indian parents, Kiran loved music and attended a private school where her bus driver, Harrison, would play classical music when picking up the kids, “but as soon as we would pull away he would change it back to the hip-hop station...So we had me and Harrison and all the other kindergarteners, we would be living our best life on that school bus and it was all girls!” says Gandhi.
“For me, growing up in NYC, you would be learning somebody’s truth just 20 blocks north of where you were in Harlem...learning somebody’s truth even now...in LA, 20 blocks south...we’re learning other people’s truth, and I loved that as a young person.”
Even in her adolescence, Kiran picked up on the misogyny that she would see. “I have the vocabulary I have now as a 30-year old, when I was five, I didn’t quite have the vocabulary, but a kid can understand when they’re being represented on a screen that doesn’t quite feel good. And I remember watching Disney movies and being more like, ‘wow I identify more with the Aladdin character than the Jasmine.’ Aladdin is broke, poor, yet he be out here living his best life on a magic carpet, traveling the world. And Jasmine is a princess but she has all the oppression that comes with it, you know it doesn’t even add up! It doesn’t even make sense, so even as a kid I would pick up on that stuff.”
When Kiran was nine and the Spice Girls came around, it was the truth she had been waiting for her whole life. “You know, if you wanna be my friend, if you wanna date me, you gotta get with my friends, yeah! This was the female solidarity we had been waiting for you know, and female solidarity, that’s the kryptonite of the patriarchy. That’s the whole thing you know, and I understood that. I used to love it, this was my truth. And I think that’s sort of a theme in this story is understanding the way I felt so lit up and seen. By that experience and understanding the difference in how art influenced me way more than other things like politics or what have you.”
Kiran started playing the drums when she was young and they ended up being her main instrument. “I liked that the drums were radical, I understood that it was a feministy kind of tom-boy thing, I loved it. I loved that whenever I would hit this cymbal or this other cymbal right over here like it doesn’t matter. The drums were more of a free expression instrument than the piano, which was kind of a little more oppressive, either you hit the C note or you didn’t, and I liked that the drums were more free.“
Kiran’s father was supportive and encouraging of her drumming. “It didn’t really add up because it was all about straight A’s and get good grades...and he was very encouraging of my drumming. And later I put it together, if he had a daughter who’s like a great drummer, she’ll get into a good school. You know, diversity check mark on the resume...‘smart, she’s Indian, plays the drums,’ so I always tell my dad ‘your plan backfired because I still out here be playing the drums, you know I love the drums.’”
Kiran’s parents moved to the States from India and her family is very into giving back. “It’s all about, ‘we raised you kids to be able to give back and make a difference in the world. And so I ended up getting into Georgetown, which is in Washington D.C with sort of this intention of pursuing politics and maybe one day working in the White House, and at the time it was Obama’s White House...so I would do these internships for the Senate, internships for the mayor's office. Listen if any of ya’ll know anything about the mayor of DC, he’s the most corrupt mayor in the history of all mayors okay...We out here trying to get really great things on our resume and working for all these different companies and these different internships and things that are supposed to be prestigious but the irony of the whole thing is that it’s just for show, like it was a bullshit administration to begin with,” she states.
Kiran recalls the tension she felt in wanting to make a difference in the world, but she also wondered, “What about joyfulness? What about not being bored?”
In her third year at Georgetown, Kiran would religiously visit the Eighteenth Street lounge in DC to see a reggae band that had singers and performers from all around the world come and sit in with the band. “It was a seven piece, Afrobeat big band, like the horn section and conga’s and drums, like a whole thing, I’d never really seen that before, it was so inspiring. So I used to go religiously and the conga player started noticing that I would always look at him. And he was at least somewhat self aware, sometimes the men be thinking like we out here really tryin get with the men; he was a more self-aware conga player, he’s like ‘You love the conga?’ I was like ‘I love the drums!” You know “I love it” and he’s like “Come and play!”
Kiran frequently sat in with the reggae band. Little did she know that the band “was the touring band for a very famous group of DJ’s called, ‘Thievery Corporation.’” Kiran had loved Thievery but had only put two and two together months later. In her senior year of school, a gig had come up for Thievery and they needed to fill the role of the percussionist, they didn’t have a conga player for the gig. “So they said, hey listen, we know this girl, her name is Kiran, maybe she can do the gig, she knows the part, she sits in with us. So I was like, ‘yeah yeah, like what’s the gig?’ ‘Oh it’s Bonnaroo…’ So I’m out here barely tryna put two and two together for school and I get a gig, my first gig, to play at Bonnaroo. So I’m in the van with Thievery Corporation, we’re driving to Bonnaroo, I play Bonnaroo 2010. And I am looking at this sea of people and...at Thievery Corporation...for folks who are not fans of Thievery, they’re criticizing the government. They’re criticizing racism in communities, they’re criticizing corporate power and entities, and that is activism, that’s using really excellent music and then infiltrating it with a message. The irony is that the reverse is actually what’s happening all the time in the mainstream media today, it’s like, all this amazing trap music and EDM and stuff that we all work out to and whatever we’re listening to and yet all of the lyrics are so misogynist like every other lyric is so unbelievably misogynist towards women. I always say, ‘Listen I’m out here, I don’t want to have to turn up to the sound of my own oppression’ do you know what I mean? So we have to use a reverse strategy, that’s why I loved working with Thievery,” says Gandhi.
This opportunity created a big shift in Kiran’s mind where she questioned how she would make a difference in the world. “Why would I have to do it in a way that’s the traditional route, why would I have to work for politics and like, do an internship that I don’t really care about? What if I can be using music and the lyrics as a way to influence?” Kiran pondered.
Nine-year-old Kiran was influenced by the Spice Girls more than anything else. “You think a nine year old understands what all the people in the government are doing? NO! And our quintessential understanding of gender roles, of racism, of all these problematic things, they form when we’re kids not much later in our life...I’m still channeling my inner Kiran, like she was so dope. People ask me, ‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ I’m like, ‘I’m out here tryna wonder what she would be telling ME now!’ You know she was living her best life.”
After she graduated, Kiran remembers a conversation she had with her father. She told him, “I don’t wanna apply for the White House internship...I wanna work in music, I want my day to be music, I want my night to be music, I understand music, I feel joyful, I feel happy, I’ll always have the stamina for it so why wouldn’t I keep doing it?”
For her Undergraduate, Kiran majored in political science and math with a minor in women’s studies. Having a math degree, Kiran completed an internship at Interscope Records in Santa Monica although she had already graduated at the time. “I just drove to Santa Clarita College and I bought some credits so that I can go to Interscope and say ‘Let me have an internship...When you want something bad enough, you will get it. So I did this internship, and the head of digital marketing...she said, ‘Listen, I saw that you’re a math major, we’re getting all these excel spreadsheets from Spotify’…And so I finessed out of this internship. I started writing these reports about Spotify. I started reading the excel spreadsheets and just diving into it,” says Gandhi.
Kiran ended up working as the first ever Data Analyst at Interscope and “did that job for two years studying these patterns and spotify streams.” Kiran states, “I care about math, but low-key, I just wanted to work in music so I was like ‘Whatever avenue I can get in, I’ll do it!’ And when you’re young, you have to, you can’t be like, ‘Oh, what can you do for me?’ It’s like what can I do for them?” It has to be, anytime I’ve ever wanted anything, I always ask what I can contribute first.”
The purpose of her internship was for her to be playing music, but Kiran was stuck at a desk “having to analyze all this bootyshaking fucking hip-hop.” Kiran recalls a meeting she where the concept of a “TNA video” (Tits and ass) came up. “I’m like ‘Fuck you guys, don’t just reduce us women to the TNA as if it’s a normal fucking thing…’ The misogyny in our culture is so normalized we don’t even think about it...it’s not okay...male fantasy is the same thing over and over again… fantasize about other diverse things…I’m out here to tell all the people how to make their music but at least we have to make sure there’s an alternative. So along the lines of this thinking, I said, ‘what’s happening in the music industry?’ We have a lot of gatekeepers.”
This conversation inspired Kiran to pursue a business degree for her Graduate so that one day she ”can come back to the industry and have a sort of influence, to be signing bands that are more interesting, more of a nuance, representing a three-dimensional picture of women.”
She applied for her MBA in 2013 but at the same time, Kiran felt that she should be drumming. “I was so jealous of all my friends who were on tour with Katy Perry as the sax player, as the guitarist for Justin Bieber or whatever… and I remember, kind of feeling that jealousy, and jealousy can be a dark emotion if you use it the wrong way. It can be a dark emotion if you wanna throw shade at somebody or you sort of use it to have a self-deprecating thoughts, but jealousy can be a very useful emotion because it’s telling you exactly what it is that you want for your own life.”
Kiran had wanted to drum for somebody. “Around that time, M.I.A was signed to Interscope, was getting ready to put out her next record and I saw my boss was going to a meeting with M.I.A and I begged if I can come. She said, ‘Okay, come on, come on don’t say anything. I said, ‘Yes, let’s go.’ So I went to the meeting, I’m a digital analyst, you’re not supposed to go to anything, they just need you alone, number crunching but I begged if I could go to that one. So I went to that meeting and you know M.I.A and I had like a brown girl to brown girl moment, like I see you, you see me, it’s a whole thing. So that moment happened it was wonderful, she was getting ready to put out her next record, she put out “Bad Girls” and that meeting ended.”
Kiran had talked to M.I.A’s product manager and encouraged her to consider her as a drummer for M.I.A. “I’ve seen the live show and she could really use a drummer, it’s just a DJ and dancers, like ‘what about a drummer?’ And you know maybe somebody female, you know maybe somebody who knows the parts? And so Diana was like, ‘Listen, listen, Kiran. Send me a video and i’ll pass it along.’” Kiran quickly made a video and shortly received a response directly from M.I.A. Kiran recalls, “I knew it was her because it was all capital letters and super cryptic email, ‘Hi’ that was the title of the email, and then the body of the email was all caps ‘I LOVE THE VIDEO BUT WE’RE NOT THINKING ABOUT THE TOUR JUST YET. I’LL HIT YOU UP WHEN WE DO...’” Kiran states, “If your favorite artist tells you that they like your drumming, which she did in that email, you’re made. You know I just printed that shit out, hung it up on my email...I was so happy.”
Kiran later received her acceptances for her MBA applications to find that she had been accepted into Harvard Business School. “I’m finishing my time at Interscope, I’m getting ready to move to harvard to start my MBA. The M.I.A tour hits me back and they say, ‘Okay, yeah! We want you to come and drum for her. We want you,’ and now listen, when you talk to the universe and you ask for things, you don’t expect to get everything you know its a catomic cluster-fuck…” The dates for the tour were exactly the same as her first semester at school. Kiran asks her audience, “I don’t know, what would you do if you were in my position, a chance to travel the whole world with one of your favorite artists, or go and pursue your business degree in one of the most prestigious Universities?”
A friend and mentor of Kiran’s, DJ Rekha, encouraged her and said, “You must do both, you must figure it out. Look at the schedule and figure it out.” Kiran admits that “she actually was right that M.I.A was only touring on the weekends. Most of the dates were weekend dates...so for my first semester that’s exactly what I did. I used to go to class, Friday 2 PM go and play Chile, quickly back Sunday night. Then next weekend Japan, one date Japan Saturday night, boom come back, next weekend, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday in LA. You know we played...the Mayan Theater, and we played that show...my best friend was there...when we finished paper planes, because my flight was the 11PM overnight flight on the Sunday, I quickly ran out the back alley and my friend took me to the airport and I flew back to school in order to make it in time on Monday morning.”
“That was a very important time for me because I learned the importance of focus, I learned the importance of looking inward to execute outward. Sometimes we have to be brave enough to assume our own power instead of our own powerlessness to take control of our own life, and it’s interesting because I channel that time a lot. Instead of us looking outward to Google or to reverse engineer somebody else’s career or to try to look at Instagram to see what other people are doing, it’s important to look inside, what matters to you what do you want to do? So that was that time and I learned a lot working for M.I.A...you know she’s openly critical, this concept of ‘own your voice’ is something that she definitely lives, she owns hers that’s for damn sure.”
In her second year at Harvard, Kiran was not touring anymore and was focused on school and learning. “I definitely had a depression, you know the vibe kind of went down. It was so nice to actually have to get away on the weekends and focus on something that I loved that gave me a sense of purpose. When I was just doing that second year, it didn’t feel as good. I felt a bit of that imposture syndrome, like you’re the diversity check-mark that got into Harvard...that’s how people kind of throw a bit of shade like that. I liked learning but at the same time it’s a lot of that masculine way of learning, masculine way of teaching which is being loud and aggressive. As long as you’re saying it’s super loud and super confident it’s right, like No, it’s not right. That’s not a good way to think about things, it’s not nuance and it’s not easy for me to get in because I don’t even subscribe to this way of communicating. So that was a tough second year.”
Kiran’s time in Boston allowed her to become more cognizant of the runners and their commitment to the exercise. “It’s hailing in Boston...snowing, raining, and Boston runners be out there, running! Like its nothing! And I loved it, I was like this is so honest, this is so raw. If you run three miles in the snow, no one can take that away from you, they can’t say ‘Oh, you did that because you’re queer or you did that because you’re Indian or because you’re brown, or because you’re female…’ its just an honest accomplishment, no one can undermine your achievements.” This inspired Kiran to start running. “I used to love it because it built up my own sense of confidence and my own sense of purpose and my own sense of believing in myself. Sometimes when I feel down, that’s the best thing to do is run. Reinvest in the things that make you feel powerful and strong and good. Reinvest in your skill sets,” says Gandhi.
A friend of Kiran’s encouraged her to run in the London Marathon. “I get to the start line of the London Marathon, and I realize I’m about to be on day one of my period. For those of you in the room who don’t have a period, let me tell you what you’re not tryna do on day one of your cycle...is run 26 miles,” says Kiran. She weighed her options, “Toilet paper, quick fix okay not gonna work for me for 26 miles...second option: a pad, no you can’t use that...I didn’t have a menstrual cup...and then a tampon, I mean I guess so? I didn’t want a half in half out situation while i’m tryna go run for hours. There’s no privacy on a marathon course to change one out, I wasn’t gonna run with my second tampon ready to go...so the options were just not amenable at the time.”
“I’d rather bleed freely and just run than deal with any of these products that are not appropriate for the situation at the time. And the problem too was like, what do people do in this situation? Like how have I never thought of this before? So I remember thinking I’m gonna run bleeding freely and I knew it was radical...but bleeding from anywhere running 26 miles is a punk rock move if you ask me. If men were running bleeding from anywhere they would be Instagramming, documenting, doing the most, getting each other awards and shit, like we out here bleeding, we out here bleeding and cooking, bleeding and running, bleeding and leading meetings. No one talks about that! So I’m running and running, and it was so liberating, it was the coolest experience, it really was… I swear I was just trying to cross the finish line and I made it.”
This experience inspired Kiran to write about it. “We need to talk about this! Why are we not talking about periods, the most normal part of the female identifying anatomy?” No one talks about it. And when I was running I was like, ‘Wow I’m in such a position of privilege to even make this decision to begin with. But folks round the world, millions of women, people who bleed, trans men, they don’t have that same ability to make those choices...the stigma, you know the inability to talk about something very very normal, is one of the most effective forms of oppression because it denies you the ability to talk comfortably and confidently about something that matters to you, about something that would educate you about something that would empower you, about something that would make you feel dignified about being in your own body.”
“I went to an all girls school, but still if we were in the presence of a guy, we would hush. A guy should just walk away if he don’t want to hear it, we out here getting tips trying to learn from each other! So I wrote about this, I wrote about how it affects us here, how it affects us in the prison system, how women who are incarcerated lack access to the products that they need, homeless women, the fact that tampons are taxed in the same way Viagra is even though tampons and Viagra are by no means comparable used cases.”
Kiran’s story went viral and received significant recognition. “Oprah started posting about it, Rosie O'Donnell started tweeting at me, ‘I love you and your period.’ Broad City was posting about it, it was a whole thing. And I wasn’t expecting it, I was just posting it on my Facebook to get some likes, to teach my friends and family about something - I’m sort of known as the feminist in my group. So this happened, the story went viral. That was a really important time for me because sometimes when we’re just brave enough to do something for ourselves, we may not realize the profound impact and how brave you can be for other people just by showing up for yourself. I’m out here trying to do this everyday, like ‘Own your voice, don’t be afraid,’ like ‘Set your pussy free you know,’ like ‘Do the whole fucking thing, we out here, we out here.’”
After the story went viral, it took Kiran on a different path to say, “What does it mean to be an activist in 2015? What does it mean to be a young person who doesn’t have a full time job,so you can just be a free agent to say whatever? And a mentor of mine...Who is a very well known law professor at Harvard in sex equality, guided me and said, ‘You are not working for anybody, you don’t have any restrictions, you can just speak to every press that you want.’ And so I started having different folks that were in the menstrual health and equity space for many many years, start teaching me, and also passing the mic...listing out different organizations all over the world who have been in this space who are looking for funding, who are looking for attention, who are looking to spread their work, who are doing incredible work.”
Kiran was frequently asked to speak publicly and many would say, “you’re a drummer, play us some tunes, play us some songs Gandhi.” Kiran would respond with, “listen I don’t have any of my own music, I’m just the drummer for somebody else,” and they said, ‘Well maybe you should write some music, you have a lot to say.’ So Kiran started learning how to produce in that time 2015, “I’ve been producing now for four years. In 2015, 2015, 2017, that was my time of writing music and taking a lot of these ideas,” says Gandhi.
A friend of Kiran’s had sent her a T-shirt with the phrase, “The Future Is Female.” When Kiran was running the London Marathon, people would send her “pins, T-shirts, things from all around the world.” Kiran states, “Many of the feminist slogans were rooted in alot of anger...and we need that, we need all types of activism cause so much of the pain that comes of course is gonna be angry.” Kiran describes her experience running. “I felt joyful, I felt liberated. And my feminism and my activism has often been rooted in the sense of positivity. And so when I saw this phrase, ‘The Future Is Female,’ I liked it because it positioned femininity as something aspirational. People ask me all the time, ‘How do we have more women breaking into hip-hop? How do we have more women breaking into the top CEO position?’ I’m like, ‘I’m not even interested in us as women...and female identifying folks going where the men have been!’ I’m interested in us building our own paradigms, in reinventing different systems that, from the ground up, work for a different, diverse array of people. So when I saw this ‘Future Is Female,’ I was ‘I love this’ and it rubs people the wrong way sometimes, like when we say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ and they come at us with this ‘All Lives Matter’ type thing. Like listen, ‘All lives are not being mass incarcerated and gunned down in this country the way black lives are, so we have to continue to remind you until that work is no longer necessary.’”
“When we say, ‘The Future Is Female,’ it’s not about men...it’s like when we say, ‘Save the dolphins,’ doesn’t mean ‘kill the whales. When we say ‘The Future Is Female,’ it’s about valuing the femininity in all of us. It’s about saying, ‘And what if instead of us leading from this brute force aggression that we have in the White House...what if we let instead from emotional intelligence and peacekeeping as a priority?’ What if instead we lead with collaboration, instead of assuming that competitiveness and hierarchy is the only way to succeed? ‘What if we were linked and not ranked?’ as Gloria Steinem so astutely once put it. So the idea is not about criticizing masculinity, it’s about valuing femininity just as much as we value what the men are doing...and that’s what’s lacking for me in today’s movement and that’s what we’re moving towards.”
With the inclusion of social media, today’s fourth wave of feminism is quite unique. Kiran states, “When I wrote my story and it went viral, people couldn’t really get it wrong because I wrote it. Back in the day...when women were trying to get their vote, they had to depend on journalists who were male-identifying to tell their story...we get to control the narrative with social media, which is very very powerful and very very different. And if we don’t own our own narrative, somebody else will do it for us and they’ll mess it up. That’s why I like making my own music, it’s like end-to-end, I open the laptop, I sing into it and make a beat, I put it out. Done. Mine. Makes sense. It’s dope. It’s the best. Self-empowerment. That’s the first thing, this idea of being able to own the narrative and ‘own the voice’ and I have my own social media channel and I’m telling my own audience what’s authentic from me and its working, that’s the best.”
There is a notion of “moving people from behind their screens into the streets.” Kiran argues that “people like to throw shade at each others’ activism, ‘Oh, you just write checks, oh you’re just a ‘tweeter’, ‘Oh, you just ran a free bleeding marathon.’ But you see, we need everyone’s activism because I may not know how to use Twitter. And look at Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter the hashtag moved us from behind the screen into the streets, changing how we do things in this country, influencing culture. It’s so powerful. I’m all about that. What is the thing that you would be doing anyway that you’re good at that you enjoy doing? And what is the thing that you really care about in this world? And how can you use that joyfulness and that excitement and that enthusiasm to make change? And I wanted to do this event for that reason, because that’s sort of the mentality for Howl For Change and this movement from being enthusiastic about something to creating social impact,“ says Gandhi.
When we finally got to speak with Kiran on how she uses the power of storytelling for activism, she states, “I never really thought of storytelling as like, a choice in name or like loving the color yellow, but I guess you’re right, there’s a story for everything. I think I learned the value of storytelling when the marathon story went viral, it really was that moment. Because I was just writing for my community and another blog found it and messaged me and said ‘Can we publish it?’ And then they published it and then the Australian republished it, and then BBC, and then NY Times, and it was just a whole thing. Sometimes we assume our own powerlessness and never own our power. And understanding that something that you’re going through is very possibly something that someone else is going through, is an important thing for us all to remember. And that’s why I do say this thing of ‘Own your voice!’ Because as soon as somebody else says it, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I was thinking the same thing! Thank you for saying it because now I don’t feel like I’m by myself.’ And so I think storytelling has enormous value to just be brave enough to say your truth hoping that it helps somebody else.”
Kiran tells Howl For Change the moment she figured out storytelling was activism. “I think it’s knowing the personal journey of feeling super upset about something or depressed or unhappy and then being really empowered by that unhappiness and taking control of your own life and doing something. And then I would be telling my friends about this story and they would be like super lit on it and excited for whatever it is that they were gonna go and do. Or they would be like, ‘Oh, on your social media, everything’s looking amazing, I didn’t even know you were going through shit when you were working at Interscope or that you were not loving it by the end of your two years.’ Or same as Harvard, like ‘I didn’t know that you were like, not feeling your best, that you were running to re-up your own confidence level,’ and so that feedbacking mechanism is something that we can all remember, that in us being brave enough to share a time of being vulnerable to then feeling empowered and it’s a constant cycle...It’s a constant cycle, we might be able to tell somebody else. I think it’s also the reason why we listen to music or watch Netflix or see important films, because we are hoping to walk away with that little bit of nugget for our own life, inspiration and ideas for our own life. So I think that’s why storytelling is an activist movement.”
When asked how she empowers other people, Kiran told us a story of when she was growing up. Her mom used to say to her and her siblings, ‘Guilt is a wasted emotion!” Kiran recalls thinking, “Only now do I understand what she met, which is that, if you feel bad about your privilege or you feel bad that you’re in a good situation, like we don’t care that now you feel bad that your life is so good... Like fuck you! Like do something! And that’s what she raised us with is you don’t need to feel bad that you’re so happy playing the drums or that you’re going to these prestigious universities. We need you to go there and be excellent at it and bring everybody up with you. That’s what we need. We don’t need you to feel bad that you went to these places and you did these things, we need you to go and now do something with it. Because you understand the other side.’”
Her mother also says, “‘We are to the universe only as much as we give back to it, and that’s another futurist female concept, that everything is linked. It’s not about putting somebody else down, it’ll come back to you so quick.”
Kiran volunteers her time at a juvenile hall eight minutes from her loft in Downtown LA. “I go in twice a month, fourteen-year-old girls incarcerated...it’s wrong! And I bring my DJ rig and I faithfully download whatever fucking trap, misogynist shit that they have me download, and I also pad it with all my other uplifting like, tribal music from around the world...and I just DJ with them, and they’re so good at it! And they love it! Like once I remember, last month and I had left the DJ thing for a second to talk to the other girls about misogyny...and then we were listening to this mash-up of “HUMBLE” by Kendrick Lamar...and we all turn around and this tiny girl, 12-years old was mashing up Kendrick Lamar because she had figured it out in the time we had left her for seven minutes...it was amazing! So I share that because I do think its the two-fold, it’s one: understanding we don’t care about you feeling bad for your privilege, you just need to make sure you’re not oppressing somebody else with it, and you need to make sure you’re doing something positive with it. And the second, it just makes me happy and joyful.”
A question from the audience prompts Kiran to share her experience getting shamed while free bleeding in the London Marathon. “It did happen...out of sweet solidarity too, it was an older Korean woman, and like real, have-my-back style ‘Honey, you’re bleeding, clean it up,’ and I was like, ‘Oh thank you.’ I was so proud of myself…I think I genuinely was just like, I had never run a marathon before, I’m out here like, ‘It’s mile eighteen, this is amazing...I don’t know if it was in a different context if I would have had that same empowerment. I don’t think I could be having a full time job at fucking Spotify, out here free bleeding...it’s only some spaces that you can be doing it, I mean obviously...when we design our own spaces, we’re gonna have different things that are the new norm but I think that I knew there was power, in the fact that I was running. If you’re on the side...watching all these marathoners run by, you’re not gonna be able to shame a fucking marathon runner. I’m out here running and bleeding, what have you done today?”
So what’s next for Kiran? She tells us, “I think the thing that’s really inspiring me these days is investing in my own drumming, investing in my own running, it’s really investing in my own producing skills. And it’s been a really cool journey over the past four years, learning Ableton, opening up my laptop and making something. Because in the industry, if I have an idea, most of the time, the vocalist or the instrumentalist has this notion that I have to work with the top producers in order to now get my song out. And I wanna be able to have an inspiration in my yellow car, drive home to my yellow loft, open up my laptop, and make the song end-to-end. Not having that dependency, I wanna make the song as close to the moment of inspiration as possible. And so I’ve been spending a lot of time between working and performing and touring and talking about these important issues, just being able to make the music that I think can change the world. And when I made “The Future Is Female” that story ended up going viral on the Spotify charts which was a really important testament to this mentality...And that’s what’s next for me is putting out a long-form body of work that takes my ideas on feminism, on the future is female on love and energy on running on eating clean on higher vibrations on lifting the collective consciousness. But knowing that I got to be the one leading it and making it. And not to say that it won’t be collaborative, but I don’t want to be dependent on somebody else’s skill sets to tell my story.”
An important question is brought up regarding men and their role in the fourth-wave feminist movement, to which Kiran responds, “In my talks, it’s usually men who are doing the sound or are hired for the event but they have nothing to do with the event but they’re listening to all this feminist stuff, so I kinda remember, what’s the flipside? If I could be a fly on the wall in that space I would learn alot. I think the thing that came to mind when he asked that question is, even the conversation around diversity and inclusion kind of has a problematic tone to it because the assumption is that we would be so lucky to be in your spaces. ‘Oh they’re doing us the favor,’ I’m out here at Harvard providing people with the funkiest cool party experiences bringing my musician positive energy to that space. I’ll go into very heteronormative spaces and be like, ‘Ya’ll need more gay people in here’ like ‘Ya’ll need more color in here,’ so this idea of diversity and inclusion where they’re doing us the favor, I think that ‘s the main thing that I’m interested in shifting. And I’m interested in us going and forming our own spaces and our own communities and our own things that are really amazing...so that those communities are coming to us. And so if I were in that space, one thing I would share with the men is, ‘How much do you have to learn?’ ‘How lucky are you?’ Not like you’re doing us the favor by listening. It’s like listen so that you can learn something! Like flip it in your mind that it’s not about getting out of the way just to be nice, its because you have something to learn, and we have to be self-aware to value the contributions of folks who don’t tend to be in the mainstream leadership position. The flip is also true for us then, when they do give us that space and that solidarity and that collaborative open energy to not be retroactively punishing and negative...It perpetuates the problem...That’s what I would say remembering then that we have so much to learn from each other. And we would both be so lucky to learn from each other.”
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