Curiosity Lab
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Curiosity Lab

A Resounding Voice for Women

An interview with Madame Gandhi | Artist, Drummer, Singer and Activist

Portrait: Tom Kubik

What is your personal mantra/motto right now?

My personal mantra right now is “Own your voice. Don’t be afraid.”

There are two levels — the first level is kind of on a political and feminist level whereby I think a lot of marginalized voices and women’s voices are often socialized to be quieted. A lot of times we are socialized to be likeable and to just go with the oppression instead of challenging it or speaking up when something makes us feel uncomfortable.

The second aspect of owning your voice is about consistency. In my own personal work it’s really easy to get distracted or feel the pressure to mold and fit what’s “popping” in culture right now, or like we have to change ourselves in order to be accepted as an artist and activist, but I want to encourage others to instead own your voice and to be authentic to who you are.

Shutting out the noise and the distractions can oftentimes be very difficult, which is why the second half of owning your voice is, “don’t be afraid”. It’s a personal reminder to myself to keep making the music that I think is good instead of what I think society wants to hear and to keep speaking truths that I believe to be true as opposed to maybe modifying it to be accepted. That’s my personal motto.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in New York City. I lived for three years (between 1997 and 2000) in Mumbai, India, and I currently live in Los Angeles.

Share a moment in your life that made you passionate about making the world a better place?

In 2009, I was working at the mayor’s office as an intern in DC when I was in college, and the mayor was being protested outside of his office for shutting down a homeless shelter. I met a bunch of musicians who were also protesting the mayor’s office, and they invited me to come to 18th Street Lounge that night, which is a club co-owned by the band Zebra Corporation.

I remember going to the club and being inspired by the way the musicians used the venue to organize and to use emotions and music in celebration and to rally the audience to organize in a grassroots. I felt like that was where I could actually make a much bigger impact rather than in training or working in a flawed system. That was a major moment where I decided to shift my passion from potentially working within the system to actually working outside of it to make a bigger impact.

Patrons of Progress is all about showcasing people who are using their influence for good. What does “doing good” mean to you?

Doing good means that me being on my stage being my most authentic self, committed to making my music the best that it is, the most impactful that it is, and me speaking my truth on the stage.

I hope in that way, it inspires somebody who’s listening to me or somebody who was in my audience to go ahead and be their most authentic self. The best example of this was this summer when I played in Denmark. After my show, a young woman came up to me and said ‘Madame Gandhi, because of your show I feel inspired to finally run for Danish Parliament. I have been holding it off for so many years but this fall I’m going to submit my application’.

That was a memory I’ll never forget because that meant that my music had an impact on somebody being brave enough to be their most authentic and influential self.

Portrait: Tom Kubik

If you could choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

One word — Passionate. Every moment of my day is spent either on music or on feminism. For music, I am either writing music, producing, collaborating, performing, listening to it, studying it, or analyzing patterns in the music industry. With feminism, I am often having conversations with people I meet at my coffee shop, I’m giving out stickers that say the ‘future is female’, engaging with a podcast, listening to a lecture series hosted by universities or organizations like yours, and so I say I’m passionate because I feel like I use my passion as my fuel. I don’t use my time for anything else but music and feminism, and I feel really lucky that I’ve combined my passion with my work because it allows me to be 24/7 energized.

What sparked your interest and passion to elevate and celebrate the female voice?

I realized for me to make the world a better place and to move the needle on gender equality, I’m going to need all the all of the strength and all the passion of the world and all the energy I could ever have. I know my energy comes from my music, and so I figured if I can take what I would be doing anyway and use that as my fuel to make the world a better place, I’ll have the ability to do it forever.

What do you hope our readers will gain from your story?

I hope my story will help people gain the strength and motivation to pursue their path. I know that there is struggle and it’s difficult in the beginning, but the more you do it, you get better at it. The more you do it, you end up being only asked to engage in circles regarding whatever your passion is. The more of something that you do that you like, the more you get called to do that thing or invited to events running that ocular issue or passion.

I remember when I was working in the mayor’s office or when I was at a university or a class that it didn’t really like, and I felt uninspired and sick. However, when I took the bravery to only do things that I liked, then that is when all of these amazing opportunities came and rained on me. I was suddenly only invited to do those things over and over again so it became worth it in the long run. Thus, I invite someone to be brave enough to be their most authentic self because in the beginning it might be tough but the long-term is worth it.

Resources and technology aside, if you could make one remarkable change in the world by 2020, what would it be?

I would love to see menstrual care products available for free in all public spaces in the United States by 2020. We’re seeing it here with tampons, pads and cups being available for all public high school students in the city of New York, and I would love to see that initial change be manifested throughout the country.

Share something that you’ve learned along the way, whether it’s one piece of advice or an experience that has helped guide you in your journey?

I’ve learned that consistency is the key. That’s my main thing. Because we live in an Instagram generation, we’re already a clickbait media generation where everything is about fanfare, and I’m moving quickly through the news. But I think the people I respect the most and who have really built change that had an impact were those who were consistent with their work and their message.

Portrait: Tom Kubik

Follow Patrons of Progress on Instagram @curiositylab

Concept + Production by London Wright-Pegs, Michael Tennant + Meghan Holzhauer // Interview by London Wright-Pegs + Meghan Holzhauer// Portraits by Tom Kubik




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Michael A. Tennant

Michael A. Tennant

Founder, writer, and movement building dedicated to helping people find empathy and purpose. Inventor of Actually Curious, the deep connection card game.

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