Kiran a.k.a Madame Gandhi is a house of talent. She is an electronic music artist and activist based in Los Angeles. Having gained recognition as the former drummer for M.I.A. and as the iconic free-bleeding runner at the 2015 London Marathon, Madame Gandhi now writes music that elevates and celebrates the female voice. The Indian-American musician used to lend her sound to British born-Sri Lankan artist, M.I.A’s setup. Kiran first took to drumming at the age of 12. Her family was never inclined towards music, but Kiran’s life has always been about ricocheting between Music, Math and women’s empowerment. She discovered her passion for music at a summer camp in Maine. ‘I remember seeing an old beat up drum set in the corner of the theater they had, and one day decided to skip the afternoon activity to just start playing it.’ The maintenance guy caught her testing the drums and agreed to teach her. Eventually, every day that summer, she learned to play the drums and develop her passion for music.
Throughout the following years, she played drums with numerous music bands and decided to pursue Math and Women’s Studies at Georgetown University. Female empowerment is probably one of her favourite subjects. She holds strong political thoughts on the cultural myths about drumming being a male-dominated space. ‘I often feel inspired by emerging communities of women drummers and women beatmakers. It takes a lot of energy to prove yourself in a male-dominated field, and I am motivated to change perspectives,’ she says. After her graduation, Kiran was hand-picked for an Internship at The Interscope Records which soon led to a full-time job as a Digital Analyst. It was during her second year at the Records, that the thought of being on tours and slamming the drums on stage got to her. M.I.A was one of the remarkable artists in the Records’ roster. As a fan of M.I.A, Kiran attended several meetings and eventually met her too. Determined to play with the pop-artist, Kiran sent a copy of her music video to M.I.A’s manager and was soon asked to come on board.
In the meantime, Kiran got accepted at Harvard Business School’s MBA program. And by the end of June, she found herself juggling two lives; one of an Ivy League student and the other of a drummer for the Grammy and Oscar-nominated artist M.I.A. The thrill of it and passion for both academics and music motivated her to balance the strenuous act. ‘I remember performing in New York City during the night, but had classes in Boston in the morning. So I flew back and forth between the two almost every day for a week. Classes and drums were my only priorities back then,’ she says.
Today, having played the drums for over 20 concerts headlined by M.I.A, Kiran seems to be perfectly in sync with music and academics. Tracing her journey with the ingenious rapper, she says, ‘I have learned so much from Maya’s precision and vision. I felt that she would push me to be more precise and listen not only to the percussion parts in a song, but to the cadence of her vocals as well. Since these contributed to the rhythm in her music just as much as the drums did, they were ingredients I had to be equally aware of when performing live.’ All this really pushed her to listen and communicate as a drummer and take it to the next level.