Music interviews: often they are nothing but boring walls of text meant to promote albums and/or artists. Sure, we at Soul Feeder also wish to give the spotlight to artists we believe deserve it. However, we also wish to get to know the artist. By sharing 3 random tracks with the artists, we wish to ignite interesting discussions regarding relevant themes, lyrics and the songs themselves. What does the artist think of the tracks we love? This episode: Avant-garde producer Aïsha Devi. What are her thoughts on tracks by Alice Coltrane, Pusha T and K Á R Y Y N? Also, what song would she recommend herself?
In the past few years, Aïsha Devi has been making huge waves in the underground electronic scene. After she changed her artist name from Kate Wax to her birth name, the Swiss-born, half-Tibetan producer has released two albums, several compilations and mixes while simultaneously also co-founding the label Danse Noire and working with several other artists from different disciplines. On the 11th of May, she released her latest album, DNA Feelings, on Houndstooth and currently she’s touring the world in support of this album. Fortunately, in the midst of this busy schedule, she found some time to discuss a wide array of topics with us through Skype.
Aïsha, first off, congratulations on the release of your new album. How are you doing?
I’m good! A bit jetlagged still so my brain is still slightly bugged, haha.
Nevertheless, as much as we love your new album, there are bigger subjects to discuss. In a conversation with Chinese artist Tianzhuo Chen, which was published by Electronic Beats, one of the things you stated was: “Religion is exclusive, and spirituality, for me, is inclusive.” Simultaneously, your music and art have also featured many elements of spirituality and in several other interviews you’ve discussed this topic as well. One of the first artists that actively brought spirituality into mainstream music was, of course, Alice Coltrane. About a year ago, Luaka Bop released a rare compilation of tracks that were created during one of the most turbulent periods of her life.
What do you think of this song?
It’s basically taken from Hinduism – the application of a mantra and the ability to heal yourself and your body. There are a lot of Western, contemporary artists that make use of these kinds of mantras and their words. If you repeat a mantra, not only the words are important but also the consonants of a word and the frequency of the consonants as they have an impact on your entire body. I myself have been learning Hindi and also Sanskrit, and even though I’m not super good at it, through this I’ve learned that the consonants in these languages are so different from those in French and English. We are using different parts of the mouth to talk whereas in Hindi and in Sanskrit you’re using your throat. By doing so you can actually generate harmonizing and healing frequencies. The words and the repetition of the mantra can induce a different state of consciousness and in the West we really took that. I honestly think that it’s a good thing we embraced and incorporated these kinds of knowledge in our society as this way we can open new, alternative doors. As a musician, I think it’s important to have these doors open – producing music is like meditation to me and when I do it can also induce different states of consciousness.
When you hear an Indian mantra, you hear that there is no start or an end. It’s one piece that could keep going on forever so it’s really connected to the idea of eternity. And when you repeat the mantra you disconnect yourself from your physicality. I think music also has that strong ability to make us perceive alter realities. That’s why there is a lot of this kind of music out there. As a musician it’s my mission to work with frequencies, binaural beats and magic language to induce altered states of consciousness and to get people to move out of their lethargy or their depression.
Do you feel like your ethnical and racial background has played a major role in your spiritual journey?
Yes, definitely. I think what mattered even more, however, was my “background” as an outcast and the fact that I wasn’t content with what the system and what society tried to make me believe in. Ever since I was a kid, I was sure there was something else. Society is basically preparing us to be submissive little slaves, but if you submit to that dogmatic, misogynistic, racist, tyrannical society or you’re stupid, or you’re part of the 1% of the wealthy people. I was never corresponding to the idea of being a little robot. That’s why I never really fit in and that feeling of “missing” really contributed to my spiritual journey. I guess I’m not alone and a lot of people who are making music find their own answers because they never fit into society either.
I also think the wealthy people don’t want those doors to be opened because they are benefitting from the system. In Switzerland, for example, it’s very hard to organize parties and raves and things that might have an impact on the system because people think they are happy with the system because they are “successful”. People tend to get very defensive when you try to open new paths with music because they are afraid they might lose something. Whereas the same time you also see a lot of people who change their jobs because they realize they can be much more empowered with other stuff than material stuff. A good piece of music, for example, might make you much happier than a new car. And as musicians we are kind of like “shamans” that can spread this message.
Your spiritual symbolism in, especially the video of Mazdâ, has also provoked some criticism by a small group of people who call it “try-hard” or “forced”. Are you ever afraid that people might start seeing your worldview as some sort of gimmick or intended branding?
It’s funny because I honestly don’t really care about what people think, especially not journalists. I do think it happens a lot though and that says a lot about the intelligence of certain people. Spirituality is a huge part of us. We are so programmed in believing what we see but the energetical world is invisible and that is coming alive right now. For example, if I send a picture to New York, even though it is an invisible and virtual process, it will come to life in another part of the world where you can print it. It’s the same for radio waves, videogames, etc. I think technology and virtual worlds really help people understand that the world is not merely physical. We’re now in an era in which people understand what I’m saying. It’s not a pose – I’m just trying to heal people no matter what. It’s kind of my mission and I don’t really need or want anyone’s permission to do that.
Simultaneously, there is also a clear feminist element in your music. Rather than showcasing you an artist with a similar mindset, I’d be more interested in moving into a genre that is known for being misogynous, at least to a certain extent. Pusha T is an American rapper known for his songs about drug dealing, his affiliation with Kanye West and his previous career as member of the rap duo Clipse. Just a few days ago, he released his third solo album, Daytona, which was completely produced by Kanye West. Whereas this song does not have a “pure” misogynist element, there are a few lines about “side-bitches” and “women that come with options”.
What do you think of this song?
Hmm… This song was produced by Kanye? I always feel like Kanye is fighting for something – he is seeking something but he isn’t opening the right gates while he also seems to be surrounded by the wrong people. He’s still relying on the old “rules” of hip-hop – like… if you don’t say bitches or the n word, you’re not a real rapper. I actually think he’s in some way looking for guides. I really think I should meet him because I’d be happy to be a prophet for him, haha.
Certain people have complained about the frequent usage of the word “bitch” in rap. How do you feel about this? Is it a word that fosters misogyny or should we stop being picky about words and rather think bigger?
It has kind of become the standard in hip-hop. I feel like hip-hop evolved really well though, with artists like Frank Ocean who are deconstructing hip-hop. We are nevertheless still in an era in which the word “bitches” is part of the hip-hop jargon. It belongs to the old times, the old-fashioned hip-hop.
Do you think this trend will disappear by itself?
New hip-hop can be really conscious so yes, totally. I think people who still refer to women like that have that sort of old-school hip-hop anger. Hip-hop is really connected with “the fight” – hip-hop comes from the streets and therefore it also has that particular aggressiveness. Nowadays, however hip-hop is way bigger and with the idea of cosmic enhancement – the idea that people are more than just one individualistic person – the lyrics and the topics in hip-hop are changing. The fights against sexism and racism for sure haven’t ended but I feel like we’re now in a time of more acceptance and so the genre is changing as well. Listen to for example Frank Ocean, who is not merely addressing new topics but who is also changing up song structures. Hip-hop really is a pioneering genre – I even find mumbling rap really interesting because it’s more about the consonants than the actual words. Even hip-hop seems to be getting closer and closer to the idea of a mantra. It’s a very formatted genre but fortunately a lot of artists are trying to change that now. I think the genre will eventually follow and this trend will become history.
Finally, in an interview with Shape you once stated: “The underground of the underground is where I really feel at home.” Simultaneously, you also proclaimed a certain love for the electronic scene and, considering the nature of our webzine, we naturally cannot do an interview without recommending an underground electronic song we love. K Á R Y Y N is a Syrian-Armenian American composer who started making waves last year with her Quanta 1 EP. Through music, she has often explored her roots and on the track Aleppo, she reminisces about her visits to the Syrian city of Aleppo.
What do you think of this song?
I love the imagery. It is about loss but also about the imperialism of Western culture, what we did for centuries to try to impose our Christianity to people who knew much more than we did. The only religion that doesn’t deal with reincarnation for example is Christianity – all other religions do. It’s a long story of how we submitted the world to our view, which led to capitalism and a huge loss of knowledge. It’s a sad thing because Middle Eastern countries or countries like Persia were so developed and we now have to relearn all of the things these people knew ages ago. It’s now time for us to, well, shut the fuck up and learn about these ancient wisdoms. She probably is more lyrical about this stuff than me though, whereas I’m more metaphysical.
In which ways has being a part of the electronic music community affected your personal life?
Music has the amazing ability to connect people who are outsiders and people who are trying to develop their own language to talk about the world in a more conscious way. I feel like the community has really helped me in that regard.
Do you feel like the “scene” has changed over the years?
I can see now how the scene is evolving. It’s no longer really about people being the center of attention, it’s about connecting with an audience and having a more transversal exchange with the audience. More and more the underground seems to proactively seek this exchange with the audience. You used to go to a concert and just be the receptor, whereas nowadays, at many concerts, the audience is also an emitting force. The underground is also a lot more interesting right now than before as a lot of concepts and ideas are being taken from the underground. Look at for example fashion. Ideas that can help humankind have to be spread and the underground is really playing an important role in that. It’s almost like the mainstream is trying to “hypnotize” the world whereas we are attempting to “dehypnotize” the world, haha.
Finally, is there a song you wish to recommend to our audience yourselves? If yes, which song and why?
I’m not listening to a lot of music right now as I was really busy finishing the album and preparing my shows. I do listen to a lot of binaural frequencies though – I could create you one, haha. Nevertheless, this is a song I really like:
Stream DNA Feelings below: