Roy Jurgens on
Madame Gandhi has helmed the battle to end discrimination in a way few young artists have. An intellectual and daring voice for women, people of color, LGBTQ+ and differently abled communities, the Forbes Music (2019) “30 Under 30” member and 2020 TED Fellow (armed with a BA in mathematics and gender studies from Georgetown and an MBA from Harvard) forged paradigm shifts across the globe with her 2017 single, “The Future is Female.”
As a queer woman of color, Kiran Gandhi doesn’t wish to be solely defined by victimhood and struggle. She desires something even more compelling, the assumption of power. “I’m not every day trying to turn up to the sound of my own oppression. You feel me?” bellows the opening sample of Madame Gandhi’s fiery new single, “Waiting For Me,” the lead track off her five-song EP “Visions.”
A skilled percussionist (Gandhi has lent her drumming skills to M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation, among others), the song rumbles along as per her characteristic style, gracefully meshing hip-hop and Indian pop while traditional mridangams, dholaks and dhaks swirl thunder around the anchoring electronic beats. Gandhi’s flow is professorial and compelling, playful and pointed. This is a song of celebration, arrival and sovereignty, a statement that the marginalized are marginalized no more.
Gandhi explains, “We as artists have the power to use our art to vividly reimagine the world we wished we lived in. ‘Waiting For Me’ is a song about questioning societal norms as they exist. The video opens with the quote, ‘We always assume our own powerlessness, but never our own power.’ With the interconnected social justice movements happening around the world, we are seeing a larger belief in the power of the collective for change. This music video is a call to action for each of us to examine how hierarchy, capitalism and systemic oppression serve to keep us obedient, with little space for dialogue or critical thinking. My hope is that this video inspires folks to ask, ‘Are my behaviors contributing to the oppression of somebody else? And what contributes to my own oppression? What does my version of freedom look and feel like?’”
In the Misha Ghose-directed video, Gandhi juxtaposes a bitter grey, joyless reality with the colorful spectacle of a future filled with noncomformity, performing the tune in a glorious and colorful Indian setting with queer, trans, female and gender-fluid performers.
It’s a song that carries with it not only a stoic message, but unabashed joy as well. She’s not looking for special treatment, she’s asking for, demanding, inclusion to the point of where borders and boundaries are set ablaze and torn down so that love, equality, empathy, understanding and freedom are unquestionably assumed. This is an artist with a keen eye on a progressive future, and she’s defining it as she moves forward.
||| Watch: The video for “Waiting for Me”
||| Also: Watch her NPR Tiny Desk concert