Photos by Sajna Sivan
Harvard MBA graduate’s music video draws high praise from leading festival and another more established Indian American pop icon…
A FAST-RISING Indian American pop songstress with smart lyrics and stunning visuals has won the Music Video Award at one of the US’s biggest and best-known multi-arts festivals.
Madame Gandhi won the accolade for her video and track ‘Waiting for Me’ directed by Misha Ghose at SXSW, on which the curtain fell late on Saturday (March 20 – Sunday morning in the UK). The popular festival which takes place in Austin, Texas is 34 years old now and spotlights films, music, business and entrepreneurship and was online only this year from March 16.
Shot in Mumbai, the winning video features schoolgirls in uniforms watching TV and turning the dial – and is ostensibly about the girl child in India and social conditioning and girls breaking free from stifling conventions.
It is colourful, vibrant and has a message of positivity and empowerment and begins with Madame Gandhi rapping: “I’m not every day trying to turn up to the sound of my own oppression.”
Madame Gandhi, whose name is Kiran Gandhi, told www.asianculturevulture.com today: “Having our piece be recognised on such a global platform as SXSW was hugely exciting.
“It also felt like a testament of the credibility of SXSW to genuinely recognise art that has soul, death, an aesthetic viewpoint, and authenticity. We made ‘Waiting for Me‘ with a lot of hard work, love, foresight, and a commitment to the ongoing vision that my project has.
“I love telling stories about my South Asian heritage and about gender liberation, but even though the story was shot in India, we knew it was a message that would resonate with many people.”
She said it was fun to “flip the script” and have a western audience appreciate the dynamics of oppression – wherever it occurs.
“It is the art of good storytelling when any type of person can see themselves in the story.
“So often growing up we had to relate to Caucasian American stories being told in the mainstream, it is fun to flip the script and have American or Caucasian people see themselves in a brown female story.
“It only reinforces the notion that so many of us have so much to learn from each other and that we are all human with similar needs and desires.”
She said it was good for people not to use labels and see that similar issues affect us all.
“Removing surface level labels and putting heart in creativity is deeply important to me,” Gandhi reflected.
On receiving the prize from SXSW, Madame Gandhi said she and her Mumbai team, who were visible via Zoom, were “humbled”. (see the video below for the full reaction).
The star reacted with delight on Instagram to her 60,000 plus followers on Saturday (March 20), and expressed her solidarity and condolences over the recent murders of Asian women in Atlanta.
She wrote: “Screaming because we won best music video…This video is about moving from restricted, oppressive spaces to space of color, community, femininity, power and beauty! It is about celebrating the girl child, trans and queer folks, about reimagining the world we wish we lived in!…”.
The high-profile Indian origin pop icon, Raja Kumari, who acv interviewed recently, expressed her congratulations.
“You are always breaking boundaries and representing us everywhere you go. Sending you and your whole team so much love and light!”
The SXSW jury commented: “Of all the wonderful works nominated, Madame’s Gandhi’s ‘Waiting for Me’ directed by Misha Ghose, soared to the top for its compelling visuals, rich color palettes and vital message of empowerment and self-expression. The video supported and enhanced both the song and the artist. This video and this artist deserve to be shared, seen and heard by everyone. Everywhere.”
Indian Express’ Paulami Sen said of the track when it released last summer, that it was an anthem of “strength and defiance”.
The LA-based, New York-raised singer-songwriter, and drummer has worked with M.I.A, Thievery Corporation and toured with Oprah on a 2020 Vision Stadium Tour. Gandhi started playing professionally in 2013, while still at college and also holds a degree in mathematics, political science and women’s studies from Georgetown University and released her first EP ‘Voices’ in 2016. She is also a recognised speaker and has featured in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, and is a TED speaker and fellow.
She is also an activist and a powerful advocate for feminism. She also featured in a video shown at the recent 63rd Grammy Awards, about the importance of listening.
By Asian Culture Vulture for Asian Culture Vulture