THE FUTURE IS…FANTASTIC
By Ondine Jean-Baptiste .
When your first name means “ray of sunlight in the morning,” there is no doubt that you will grow up to bring positivity and formidable change into the world. And so entered Kiran Gandhi, globetrotting musician and activist extraordinaire, whose radiance and power make anyone who comes across her work feel compelled to take action.
Kiran Gandhi, also known as her stage name Madame Gandhi, got her start in music the way she gets most things done: tenacity and sheer ambition. While working as Spotify’s first-ever digital marketing analyst, she saw that M.I.A. needed a drummer to accompany her on tour. She sent the musician a video drumming to the artist’s hit single “Bad Girls”, and the rest was history. Did I mention Gandhi was simultaneously attending Harvard Business School Monday through Friday?
Fantastic doesn’t even begin to describe Kiran Gandhi, but it’s a good start. There are few other individuals in her field who use their talents and platform to encourage gender equality, social justice, and intersectionality with their audiences. Now on the road as her own headlining act, Madame Gandhi has spent the better part of the past two years speaking, rapping, and singing to share her perspective on fourth-wave feminism.
The Future is Female
Gandhi frequently centers her messaging on the iconic phrase “The Future is Female,” even titling one of her songs on her latest EP as such. The saying has its roots in feminist history as the second-wave movement of the ‘70s revolved around empowering women and their distinct experiences as a marginalized group. As it relates to Gandhi, she explains:
“I used to be like, how can women break in to be more CEOs, more drummers, more artists, more festival organizers, and I’m not even on that tip anymore. To me right now, [the phrase] ‘the future is female’ is representing women being lightyears ahead in building our own alternatives in leadership, of safe spaces, of joyful spaces.”
The song “Her” on Gandhi’s EP Voices is about being underestimated as a woman, being fed up by the current system, and leaving to create in a parallel universe. This kind of futuristic imaginary Gandhi depicts is just one of the ways her radical perspective empowers marginalized folk to not only imagine their wildest dreams, but also turn those dreams into reality.
Being a successful woman of color in music
When asked about the music industry’s role in supporting brown female artists, Gandhi comments, “So many music labels come in and exploit communities of color because they understand that so much music is made in such vulnerable parts of the world.” She is an unsigned artist by choice, and the sheer number of musical festivals, speaking engagements, and tour dates alone prove that Gandhi does not even need a corporate team behind her to be successful. With such talent and high achievements, it is almost shocking that Gandhi has not let all the attention and success go to her head. To the contrary, she actually designs each show with the same purpose: to give back. She muses, “The point is actually to make somebody else feel joyful and elevated and inspired when they leave your show. And I think designing a set list that has high energy at the start and finish, with the introspective vulnerability in the middle, is really responsible because it shows everybody that it’s okay. It’s okay to have both moments and it’s okay to not feel your best at times and that all of us do, and here’s me showing you what that looks like on a stage…in the most honest way I can.”
Gandhi definitely acknowledges the trans-exclusionary nature of the phrase, “The Future is Female,” and asserts that she believes in giving new meaning to old sayings. “To me, when I say, ‘the future is female,’ it doesn’t mean one gender is superior than the other, it means that we will one day live in a world where we deeply value female energy, where we value the contribution of the female archetype so much so that we need it to survive and thrive as a society.”
No matter how big Gandhi gets, the significance she puts on giving back never wanes; she leaves each place and person better for her having been there. With increased visibility for women of color to speak out on how to make the world a better place, the future is looking pretty fantastic.