The future is female. By now, you’ve heard the slogan, you’ve seen the shirts, and, hopefully, you’re noticing the prediction is fulfilling itself. But what does it mean exactly? It’s a flexible phrase that can be repurposed by the person wielding it, and for Kiran Gandhi, the musician known as Madame Gandhi, it’s about existing on a spectrum to better combat phobias.
“It’s about looking to feminine energy for our very survival. It’s about asking what can we learn from what women bring to the table, literally to combat the hyper-ego, machismo leadership we’re seeing in the Trump era,” says Gandhi. “I want to know what it’s like to be emotionally intelligent and collaborative. What if we valued femininity in this society as much as we’ve valued masculinity? It’s up to us as new leaders to redefine a unifying slogan. To me, the trans community has long been leaders in celebrating femininity and eliminating misogyny in allowing people to accept their whole selves.”
Gandhi knows the weight of that phrase. She named one of her songs after it because it’s so relevant to her life. She triple-majored in political science, women’s studies, and math at Georgetown University while also performing as a drummer for numerous musicians. She then played at festivals like SXSW and Bonnaroo. Between 2011 and 2013, she worked as the first ever full-time digital analyst at Interscope Records, using her math degree to analyze patterns from Spotify streaming data. Next, she moved to Boston to earn her MBA from Harvard University in 2015. That same year, she ran the London Marathon while bleeding freely on her period to help combat stigmas against menstruation. Okay, now take a breath. Kiran Gandhi is the personification of what it means to be the future and to chase it relentlessly, and she just so happens to be female while she works to achieve it all.
Under her moniker as Madame Gandhi, she works to continue that movement, particularly for intersectional feminist strides. Her debut five-track EP, the excellent Voices, showcases everything she has to offer. On it, she’s busy drumming—she picked up the instrument at summer camp purely because it seemed “boyish” in assignment and she felt rebellious picking it up—while also singing about the feminist agenda and challenging preconceived notions most Americans fail to see an issue with because of how normalized they’ve become.
Live, she turns her tour-de-force music into a full-on experience. When she isn’t performing alone, darting around the stage playing each music part herself, she’s recruiting a team of talented women of color to energize the room. There comes a point during her performances where she usually pulls out a text and reads a passage that’s inspired her. Often, it cites the importance of unity, feminism, and political rebellion on both major and minor scales.
“Some people get uncomfortable when I do the reading. Other people cling to every word,” she says. “It’s your job as the artist to curate the environment you want.” Naturally, Gandhi chooses to shares words that have inspired her in hopes that those same words serve some purpose to fans in the audience.
It should come as no surprise that Madame Gandhi’s performances impact every onlooker. While her music, lyrics, and readings onstage leave a mark on listeners regardless of gender, race, age, or background, there’s a different level of inspiration she hopes to provide for women of color.
“I want people to be hit be the emotions first and then receive the message later. I always feel like the musicians who inspired me the most were able to move me in that way,” she says. “I want people to see me being my truest and most vulnerable self, taking risks, and succeeding on a stage while confident so they feel that they can do the same. There’s something really powerful about seeing other women who look like you take risks on a platform. I don’t think we see enough women in 3D settings. In my show, I’m drumming, I’m producing, I’m rapping, I’m speaking, and I want others to feel like they can access their fullest potential.”
In 2015, Boston was estimated to be 62.1 percent white. That means chances are more than half the people reading this are white, but if you fall in line with DigBoston’s ethos, you’re disgusted with that number and actively take steps to reroute Boston’s racial history. In that case, listen to Gandhi. While she loves Boston and considers it a second home—“I love visiting Allston, all of the Brazilian grocery stores there, Refuge Cafe, the vegan food spot in Central Square, A4, and running on the Charles River,” she says, reflecting on her time here while earning an MBA from Harvard—she also knows there’s a lot of work to be done by the white population, particularly the white women of the city. And once you soak it up, the forward momentum she actively works toward reaching becomes all the more achievable.
“The first step, honestly, is to acknowledge that being in a black body or a body of color completely changes your experience as a female. A lot of women find their race holds them back, oftentimes more so than their gender does,” she says. “Modern feminists’ movements have to pick focal points that not only affect white women, but all women. We have to identify what are the lowest common denominators and fight those things first: pay equality, body positivity, sex positivity, menstrual health and hygiene, combating rape and sexual violence. These are issues that tend to face women of lower-income backgrounds, which, in this country, tends to be linked to race. It upsets all of us, but white women could take the first step by acknowledging how their experiences in that are different.”
MADAME GANDHI, HAPPY LITTLE CLOUDS. FRI 8.18. ONCE SOMERVILLE, 156 HIGHLAND AVE., SOMERVILLE. 8PM/ALL AGES (LEGAL GUARDIAN PRESENT FOR MINORS)/$8. ONCESOMERVILLE.COM