Take your hand and place it on your chest. Can you feel the beating of your heart?
In many cultures around the world, drumming represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. This month, in honor of National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, I want to focus on drumming, a practice that is female, in its essence, and has always evoked emotions from deep within. Women are creating beats that resonate beyond the realm of sound, using their instruments to empower people and create community.
Earlier this month, I made a trip to Los Angeles and met with a renaissance woman who uses drumming to create positive impact and encourage creative self- expression. Kiran Gandhi is a 24-year-old Georgetown University-educated mathematician, currently working as a data analyst for Interscope Records. As her personal website says, Gandhi “travels often to pursue endeavors of music, freedom, feminism, friendship, discovery, learning and love.”
During her early years, Gandhi said she noticed the eclectic range of female drummers across different genres of music — punk rock, go-go, jazz. As a natural curator, Gandhi said she recognized that drumming is a powerful vehicle for female empowerment, and she used it as a glue to bind diverse musical forces together. In 2011, when she was living in Washington, D.C., she hosted the city’s first all-women drumming showcase, called Rad Ladies That Drum.
“I wanted to showcase all the different pockets of D.C.’s music scene because people don’t think of D.C. as a cultural and music savvy town,” Gandhi said. “I also wanted to showcase all of the amazing women drummers in D.C.”
Historically and culturally, the practice of drumming has served as a powerful instrument of expression, from ritual prayers to warriors’ chants.
“It’s subliminal in the message that it has to share and it’s less threatening,” Gandhi said. “When I listen to a song, I can be choosing just to listen to it rhythmically or musically, or I can be listening to it on a deeper level, to understand what the artist’s message is. For that reason, music is political because it doesn’t make someone feel attacked or that ‘I have to believe what you believe.’ It gives someone the choice to be political or to just enjoy music.”
Female drummers may be under-represented in the music industry, but organizations like Batala, an all-woman percussion band, and publications like TomTom, a magazine about female drummers, are helping women express themselves through movement, song and percussion.
Gandhi said she hopes to use her knowledge about digital strategy at Interscope Records to one day launch her own music label.
“It would be more like a music incubator, where I’m able to pick bands that I think need to be heard, bands who have a message, bands who promote positivity, who promote diversity, who are female and share their music with the world,” she explained. “Otherwise, their voices and their stories would go untold.”