GQ India: Madame Gandhi’s Essential Pride Playlist


The LA-based artist and activist makes us a colourful mixtape pumped with music of all shades.

February 2020 saw Kiran aka Madame Gandhi touring India in turbo mode. After a smashing performance at the VH1 Supersonic Festival in Pune, she flew into Mumbai and headed straight for the GQ x Raymond Co-Lab party, for a quick few selfies with Canadian rapper SVDP and Yanchan. A day later, she played a DJ-drumming set at Soho House before heading to the outskirts of Mumbai to shoot a music video. Next, she flew to Bengaluru for a gig at Foxtrot, and finally returned to the US to close out the 2020 Vision Stadium Tour with Oprah. Basically, mad momentum, till the pandemic hit.

“I have been at my studio in Downtown LA for the past three months,” says the music producer, drummer, artist and activist, reflecting on the fever dream we used to call normal life. “It’s been a unique experience editing [the music video for “Waiting for Me”, out next week] with my team at Chalk & Cheese Films remotely. I have also been spending my time protesting for black lives in Downtown LA, performing and DJing virtually over zoom calls, and participating in IG Live discussions about gender liberation during pride month.”

Madame Gandhi, who has also toured drumming for M.I.A and Thievery Corporation, believes it is her mission to celebrate gender liberation. “I believe that Pride is about recognizing how members of the queer community push gender barriers forward, and liberate all of us,” she says. “To me, the queer community understands that gender is constructed to keep some people in positions of power, and other people not. It is the bravery of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community that reminds everyone to celebrate their most authentic self.”

But this year is significant for Madame Gandhi for more reasons than one. “I think one of the biggest shifts I am seeing this year is more attention paid to history,” says Gandhi. “In India, folks are recognizing how multiple expressions of gender existed in a pre-colonial time, and that the gender binary is a Western construct that needs to be dismantled because it is associated with power and privilege. In the US, there is a larger celebration of black trans female leaders like Martha P Johnson who led the protests at the Stonewall Inn in NYC which started the global pride movement as we recognize it today.”

“There has historically been less intersectional support of these different liberation movements,” she continues, “and so it feels powerful to see that this year, because there is so much global unrest, we are realizing the power of reinforcing these different movements collectively, rather than tearing each other down.”

Madame Gandhi demonstrates that intersectionality in this excellent mixtape — what is Pride without its music, after all? — featuring songs and avant garde videos from Canadian rappers Cartel Madras; American R&B songstress Raveena; British electronic musician Leo Kalyan, Malaysian queer pop star Alextbh, and a spoken word performance by Alok Vaid-Menon, among others. It’s a diverse selection, vast in scope, anchored by a simple message: “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

Madame Gandhi’s Playlist for Pride

1. “Schmeric Schmandre”

By Toronto-based, Tamil-origin trap rap duo Cartel Madras

2. “With You/ For You”

By indie singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad

3. “Young Indian”

By Madame Gandhi

4. “Thalaivi”

By prominent YouTube singer-songwriter Vidya Vox

5. “Azaadi Is Freedom Is Fate”

By Kohinoorgasm, the lo-fi pop music project of LA-based Josephine Shetty

6. “Stronger”

By American singer-songwriter Raveena Aurora

7. “Funeral”

By artist and activist Alok Vaid-Menon

8. “Jinx”

By NYC-based DJ and producer Ushamami (aka Mena Sachdev)

9. “Identity”

By Indo-Fijian, California-based rapper Pallavi

10. “Within You Is A Light”

By Indonesian singer-songwriter Kai Mata and rapper eiNfach joNas

11. “Moments”

By Malaysian queer pop musician Alextbh

12. “Focus”

By British electronic music producer and singer-songwriter Leo Kalyan

13. “Hymn to Dudes”

By multi-instrumentalist & vocalist Cat Mahatta, maker of “queer synth space r&b”

Check out the Madame Gandhi x GQ India Pride playlist here

By Nidhi Gupta for GQ India