By: Caroline D’Arcy Gorman for DRØME
A bright yellow car pulled up beside me on Sunset Boulevard and the driver waved out the window. Decked out in head to toe yellow to match her car, the drummer, producer and singer behind the electro pop act “Madame Gandhi”—namely, Kiran—greeted me warmly. “Let’s walk,” she insisted.
Before setting out as a solo artist, Kiran drummed on tour with MIA while attending Georgetown University for college and Harvard for Business School. In 2015, she garnered attention after running the London Marathon while free-bleeding on her period. I ask Kiran about her hectic schedule—New York, SXSW, LA, Mexico. It seems like a lot, I say. She laughs. “It’s always like that dude!” In fact, Kiran has been straddling the seas since childhood – she grew up between New York and Bombay. “I loved India so much. My American accent made me cool as a kid in India. When I came back to the States, being ‘cool’ meant you had the “cool” sunglasses or shoes. I didn’t know about any of that stuff!” But Kiran would find her confidence in 7th grade, when she
discovered the drums. “Instead of going to parties at school, I would go to see shows in New York City. When the band would come out to sign autographs, I would ask the drummer, what cymbals were you using? Instead of just being a fangirl.”
Kiran’s childhood passion for the drums has served her well, delivering her from the stage-door autograph lines to the stage itself. She is an electric and captivating performer. “I am very present. I want everyone off their phone and with me unless there is a phone-worthy moment.” And what makes a phone-worthy moment? “When, energetically, I’ve left you and I’ve gone into my own world to play the drums. Then, I like that people reach for their phones to take a photo; there is something special about that moment and they feel compelled to document it.”
Kiran recognizes the extraordinary power of the stage; the responsibility her success has endowed her. “If you give somebody a stage they should use it for what they’re passionate about. The show is a very vulnerable thing: you’re on a stage giving your most honest self and saying your truth to other people.” This isn’t as easy as she makes it sound. She credits the time she spends on her own as being critical. “If you don’t feel comfortable with yourself alone, you can’t share yourself with others. I have also found that spending time away from the mainstream allows you to see without your proverbial blinders. You can criticize society, you can comment on oppression.”
Kiran means first ray of sunlight in the morning in Urdu. Fittingly, Kiran Gandhi has always gravitated towards the colors of the sun: reds and yellows and oranges. It speaks to a particular philosophy of hers, one that celebrates the rapport between the Feminine and the Sun. “Without the sun there’s no life on earth; without female energy, there’s no life on earth. I want to rebrand femininity. Instead of everything being pink, let’s make it yellow. Yellow has an androgynous component to it. And I want men to fuck with female energy that they aspire to as opposed to one they feel insulted by,” she said.
Madame Gandhi sings on the track “The Future is Female”: I got something to say, gender constructions just get in the way, I’ve been playing drums since I was like 8, the future is female, the future is great! “To me, The Future is Female very much espouses an inclusive ideal. Society is obsessed with the hyper machismo and has built gender as a ranking system as opposed to a true spectrum. We live in a world where insults are often gendered: it’s normal to say, don’t be such a girl and, grow a pair of balls, as if reaffirming the fact that being male is more desirable than being female. When we call for a future that is female, we are calling for a true paradigm shift: the very nature of having something female becomes desirable, trans is welcome, queer is welcome, male is welcome. In a future that is female, we thereby enable people of non-gender-binary identities, queer identities, trans identities to feel safe in their own skin.”
And what’s it like playing shows as Madame Gandhi? Kiran looked at me with a grin. “It’s like the feminist church.”
As we parted ways, I noticed “EAT MORE PUSSY SILVERLAKE” is scribbled on the sidewalk.