One year ago to the day, we played our first shows in Chicago at Pitchfork Music Festival and at the Ace Hotel Rooftop. Chicago has nothing but love energy. When I come, I notice that while there is so much movement and a fast pace to the city, the people who come for music are there to give and receive positivity and also to slow it down. I feel very connected when I come here, that the audience is curious and interested in exchanging a message.
Earlier this week, we returned to Chicago for the second time to perform at Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, opening for the legends Talib Kweli and Mos Def as Black Star. Many of our friends and fans who came out to the show gave us so much support and cheered us on, knowing how much growth had happened in just one year alone.
The show was seated and family-oriented, with people of many different age and life experience backgrounds. As a performer, especially one with a message about equality, it is both challenging and exciting to have to play for people who are not my typical audience, because I never know how they will receive the message, but I know I am happy to have them there so as to spark conversation among a different crowd.
We started off with our latest single “Top Knot Turn Up” which is a trap anthem about putting your hair up in a bun and getting work done. This got people smiling and laughing since the song is playful with heavy drumming and electronics – Lara was on backing vocals and Noor was my DJ for the set. I read from “The Feminist Utopia Project” about envisioning a brighter future, and honored the fact that we are opening for some of the greatest legends of woke, conscious hip-hop. I spoke about how the struggle for equality across all sections of culture are linked, not ranked, and that empathy is one of the most powerful tools for social justice. Our concluding song, “Bad Habits” was a Fela Kuti inspired drum-heavy uplifting anthem about being the best version of yourself in order to serve humanity. We then said namaste and cleared the stage for Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli.
When Black Star took the stage, everyone stood up. The crowd was ready. I think everyone felt so grateful that the group was playing in such an accessible setting and with amazing food and drinks to be able to enjoy!!!! The vibe was so lighthearted and wholesome and vibey – it was amazing to see two of the greats supporting each other too with not only their collaboration project but also backing each other up on their solo material. I think the thing that resonated with me the most as an emerging performer early in her career was how effortless their performance was. As if no one was really around and they were just vibing together at a party or something having so much fun. That’s what makes people feel inspired – watching others who are talented do what they love!!!
The next night I took the decks at the rooftop of the Ace Hotel Chicago to do one of my absolute favorite gigs – DJ for one of the best audiences in town!!! So many people pulled up ready to dance and have an amazing night. Sometimes when you DJ people just watch you spin, but the entire job of a DJ is to serve the needs of the moment and have a blast and read the room. And that’s exactly what me and the homie Isabel Calixta did!! I was drumming on bongos and cowbells during her set and we moved the night from being a chill drinks and hang out space to a party of joyful summer hot celebrations!!! The more I gave, the more the crowd gave, and they were dancing with us from start to finish. I channeled what I had seen during the Black Star show – a commitment to keeping it sincere, loving what I do, and knowing that if I’m enjoying myself, it will be deeply infectious. All of us are looking to release and have fun and be joyful, but sometimes we feel we have to be reserved and not go off!!! I wanted to set a different tone, and we did!!!
Thank you to the family at the Ace Hotel for always supporting my work and giving me a space to pursue my craft. And thank you to our Chicago friends and family for pulling up deep and packing out the space all night. The future is female, the future is Chicago. Love, until next time, Kiran // @madamegandhi ❤