The electronic artist and activist opens up to GRAMMY.com about filming “Waiting For Me” in Mumbai, the process of remixing ‘Visions’ and what we can expect to hear on her forthcoming effort, ‘Vibrations.’
If anyone is making the most of their time in quarantine, it’s Madame Gandhi. The electronic artist and activist, who has toured as a drummer for the likes of M.I.A., Thievery Corporation and even Oprah on her 2020 Vision Stadium Tour, recently released a visually stunning music video titled “Waiting For Me,” not to mention an all-female remix edition of her 2019 record Visions. On top of all of that, the musical polymath is currently working on a 2021 release titled Vibrations.
Shot in Mumbai last February, the video—which featured a cast of queer, trans, female and gender non-conforming people—was intentionally released in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic “because we believe it reflects many of the themes of personal liberation, questioning societal norms and global protest that have come up,” Gandhi wrote in a statement.
Below, Madame Gandhi opens up to GRAMMY.com about filming “Waiting For Me,” the process of remixing Visions and what we can expect to hear on her forthcoming effort.
How have you been primarily spending your time in Quarantine?
In the first few months of quarantine, I found myself performing and DJing live on virtual concerts very often! I developed kind of a staging area in my loft in the Arts District of Downtown L.A., and a pro-audio rig, and designed set lists for different scenarios. The idea was to be able to continue to contribute joy to my audiences, participate in the needs of the time and adapt my work to a new medium. It felt simultaneously energizing and lonely at the same time! In the past two months though, I have shifted my energy to focus solely on writing my new album Vibrations. Producing my own music and choosing women collaborators for this project is deeply important to me, and that process has been really rewarding because I rarely have the time to focus and invest in my own skill sets!
You’re currently working on the remix to your 2019 album Visions, using all female producers to remix each song. How did you go about selecting producers for this project?
I knew I wanted to reimagine my album Visions for the dance floor and for folks who love working out. So often, we tolerate sexist lyrics in music because we love the beats or how the music energizes us. I wanted to make an album that could provide all of that without the oppression! And so I reached out to six of my favorite female producers and MCs to each remix the album. The track order is the same as the original, just this time with each remix. The album art work was shot and created by the same all-women and gender non-conforming team who shot the first album, but with contrasting colors so it feels “remixed.”
Why did you decide to call your forthcoming 2021 album Vibrations?
My first two albums are Voices and Visions. I always knew this would be Vibrations. I like the sensory experience of it. I like the power of healing and positive vibrations. I want the album to feel healing and meditative. I want to take frequencies that address each chakra, or energy center of the body. I also like the “V” alliteration as a subtle reference to celebrating the female and feminine anatomy, which is often so policed and censored.
Why did it make sense for you to produce Vibrations yourself?
These songs are a collection of work I have produced late nights in my home in Downtown L.A. This is where I feel safest to take the most risk, sonically and lyrically. I am bringing on incredible collaborators though to help me bring my own work to the next level! It will have a mix of traditional arrangements, and arrangements that make you feel like you’re on a journey!
You shot your music video “Waiting For Me” in Mumbai, where you grew up. Why did it feel important to set it there? You’ve commented in an interview that the “Waiting For Me” video was intentional in its decision to “not reduce Indian culture to Bollywood.” What do you wish American media would do differently when portraying Indian culture(s)?
I spent a lot of time growing up between Mumbai and NYC. I went to school in Mumbai between 1997-2000 and had a deeply rewarding experience dancing to local music, celebrating Indian festivals and wearing Indian fashion as a young person! I have my own relationship to India even though I can barely speak Hindi. I love the maternal energy that permeates the country, the nature, the meditative spirit, the divine food, the commitment to vegetarianism. I wanted to tell a story that was authentically my own experience, rather than perpetuating only the norms that seem to get exported from India and imported around the world.
Right before the pandemic hit, you opened for Oprah on her stadium tour. What was your favorite part of that experience?
I had never performed in a stadium before, nor had I ever been part of such a deeply healing and culturally important operation. I loved being able to hit the first drum beat every morning of the Saturday tour and know that my meditative energy pulled everyone from the audience in to know we were starting the show! I loved dancing on stage with my collaborators at Daybreaker, and meditating with 15,000 other people, knowing that we were bringing their vibration high to receive the lessons that Ms. Winfrey would teach. I learned that it is vital whom we surround ourselves with, when we are doing work with the intention of healing and bringing joy and value to others.
By Rachel Brodsky for The Grammys