Aisha Devi: On Killing Kate Wax and Birthing a New Era of Music
We meet the artist formerly known as Kate Wax, Aisha Devi, ahead of her gig with VENT to discuss her new musical persona, her collaboration with Egypt's Islam Chipsy, and the never-ending inner-transformations and quests for self through music.
“After feeling trapped in one three-dimensional music field… I decided to kill Kate Wax," says Aisha Devi about her previous stage persona, as we settle down just days before her big gig with VENT. "I actually remembered where and when I did it; I was meditating in the Tunisian desert and I killed her and it was bloody.” Running one of Switzerland's most unorthodox Electronic music labels, Danse Noire, the multi-talented DJ, producer and songstress brings together a worldly vision like no other for a unique musical presence. “When you’re making music, you’re looking for answers in the world; you’re trying to find out who you are, looking to find your own place in the world, and when you’re an artist, sometimes that [music] is your only way to communicate with the world. I also started meditation around the same time I started to look for my father, who is Nepali, Indian and Tibetan. I never met him but during my search for him it corresponded with a time when I was frustrated with music and one thing led to another and here I am.”
Humble and down to earth, talking to Devi is both peaceful yet energising. Bored with the usual concepts and structures of electronic dance music, we met with her while she was at 100 Copies studio working on track collaboration with Egyptian Shaabi keyboard sensation Islam Chipsy as part of the daring project by Norient Sounds. From Punk in Bolivia and Indonesia, Electronic music in Egypt, underground Pop in South Africa and Nigeria, Rap in Pakistan, Serbia, Chile and Ghana, Noise music from Israel, Seapunk and Vaporwave from the US, Post Digital Pop from the UK, Neuer Konzeptualismus, and many more genres we can’t either spell or pronounce, Norient Sounds' and their projects are as diverse and daring as Danse Noire's. Made up of Devi and her crew, which consists of IVVVO, El Mahdy Jr, Vaghe Stelle, and HafHaf, it only makes sense that Danse Noire are collaborating on something so unique and interesting.
With her new artistic persona, Devi is starting to delve into other musical realms away from the three-pop note based format, that were imposed by industry standards. “I wasn’t comfortable with that, it just wasn’t in tune with the transformations in my heart. I really loved it touring with all my label Border Community pals like Holden who is just fantastic, but I think I was looking for something else. And when I started meditating and doing the Tibetan monk like voices or chants, I found a different way to express myself and find my inner voice,” she says without a single note of pretentiousness. “I felt more at ease breaking away from the tiny format of Dance music to the more liberating Eastern scales, and away from the constructs of traditional Electronic music formats, into tracks that don’t necessarily carry the normal structure... Hypnotic mantra-like super long tracks that may or may not have a drop at all.”
As for her live performance at VENT's first foray into daytime parties, Devi will be employing her trusted Tempest drum machine for rhythm, and Roland Jupiter synth which she describes as huge, very heavy and awful but she’s obsessed with it. “I love being surrounded by my machines in a spaceship type setting,” she adds with a smile almost suggestive of romance.
It's not the first time Devi has performed in the Middle East, and while she admits there's a good vibe, there's also "a bit of misogyny when playing in the region as the sound engineers assumes that because you’re female you can’t connect a cable to a mixer. Sometimes it's the same with the crowd who are always slightly doubtful, but a few minutes in they all get lost in the music and forget who is playing.”
“I hated playing DJ sets. I used to but now I stopped because it’s really hard when you’re playing live stuff; it’s your stuff if they hate it then they hate it! But when you’re DJing you have to constantly adapt and therefore in a way you have to be a bit of a crowd-pleaser,” she says about the confidence needed to put on an original live show. “But a great DJ basically is a humble guru, but what makes a great producer isn’t the same. A producer has to have a really strong vision and no compromise in the studio; something that emanates from his decision, unlike a DJ who is constantly adapting.”
Photography by Fouad El-Batrawi.
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