Aïsha Devi - An Empowering Vision

Aïsha Devi - An Empowering Vision

Written By:

Simona Mantarlian

Published:

August 14, 2018

During the Berlin edition of MIRA Festival 2018, Aïsha Devi premiered the audiovisual performance of her latest LP release, DNA Feelings.

The album is a deep ride into subconscious symbols and ancient knowledge, combining Aïsha’s skills as a classically trained singer with her ear for hauntology and abstract sampling, cyberdelic imagery and a love for the 90s love-unity-and-rave philosophy. The visuals designed by Emile Barret were exploring eerie places and associations of alchemical symbols, articulating a modern language of the sacred.

After the gig we chatted with Aïsha Devi and Emile Barret about the trans-dimensional world laid out through “DNA Feelings” and the empowering vision that inspires it.

We don’t belong to advertising and we don’t belong to TV, we don’t belong to media, we belong to ritualism and we belong to a kind of collective gathering where we understand what we belong to.

2. DNA Feelings

Aisha Devi live at MIRA Festival Berlin 2018. © Anna Wyszomierska Photography
Aisha Devi live at MIRA Festival Berlin 2018. © Anna Wyszomierska Photography

I feel your AV performance of DNA Feelings experimented a lot with time perception and time as illusion, I couldn’t tell whether it’s day or night outside, early or late. How did you prepare for the performance practically / emotionally?

Aïsha: What you say about perception, whether it’s day or night, dark or light, is exactly the idea. My idea of making music is that we are so enslaved by time. In capitalism, time is money – I think that music has the ability to change that idea and to put yourself in another spacetime – even further than that. When you are lost in a sound that you really love you forget about that idea of “it’s day” or “it’s night” or “I have one hour left”. And you almost forget about your own death. The main idea of the music and visuals combined is to get rid of the spacetime. I would like to connect with the idea of eternity. With the visuals it’s losing the idea of what’s down and what’s up and what’s in front of you – so that you can lose totally the ego. The ego is making yourself believe that your feet are down, your head is up and you are totally in control of the space. I’m using a lot of binaurals, which put yourself in a transcendent consciousness. I’m building my own binaurals and I’m using delta binaurals, which are the ones that bring yourself in a meditative state. It’s neurological, and it puts your brain into a space where you allow yourself to not take care over any space and time idea. The visuals are a continuum of that. We are working with the microcosm and microcosm in a way that you don’t have a notion anymore of what’s small and what’s big, what’s up and what’s down. My aim with the live set is to go further than anything connected with the Earth and this spacetime (the 3D).

There is a lot of matter that nourishes our knowledge and a lot of consciousness: ancestral readings like the Veddas, hermeticism, alchemy which is the furthest Western knowledge got – unfortunately we went back from there and we only believe the matter – it’s about transcendence of matter and that’s what I would like to induce, to get out of our own physicality and the human condition always calling for the body or that we are growing old – that doesn’t exist, because the mind orders matter and you have an impact on everything around you. When you are dying, you won’t be thinking about your car and your belongings, you’re only thinking about how much love you gave, and music – the invisible things. And music is about the invisible spectrum. I think we are eternal, but consumerism and capitalism always try to bring you back to your own death and how to maximize that living and make you consume, buy. We don’t need that. Advertising is a huge lobotomy. Music brings you to another cosmos. Capitalism wants us to spend money, and what’s the best way to spend money? That is to be unhappy and kind of feel the void. The more you meditate you understand that there are other cosmos and other realities. We are living an amazing time because cinema, graphic design and all the arts are bringing us to another cosmos and are suggesting outer-dimensional space. And people feel that they are so unhappy – they work so hard from Monday to Friday and then they are losing themselves into the weekend. But you’re realizing that there’s something much more to the weekend than the week. You feel much more happy and free. The problem with capitalism is they combine happiness with success. I think that we can really open the gate now and I think there are some artists, and different doors opening to the society that suggest another way and I think we are the pioneers and we have to lead people to that path.

Emile: For the visuals, the call was to show invisible things, and to show the illusion in a way. That way you can have rocks and fractals at the same time.

Aïsha: And music has been doing that before – (it’s more difficult with the visuals than with the music). That’s why I like that music is becoming more ritual than entertainment, and I like that word hijacking, because I’m hijacking the media or the space where there’s some amazing sound system because I’m using this entertainment system to put people in a trance. It’s all about hijacking the tools we have. To be sneaky about that – not sneaky in a bad way, but as empowering people. I think that’s what’s amazing with electronic music now, where we’re at is that people are understanding more. We don’t belong to advertising and we don’t belong to TV, we don’t belong to media, we belong to ritualism and we belong to a kind of collective gathering where we understand what we belong to.

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3. Change

Photo credits: Emile Barret
Photo credits: Emile Barret

I remember you were saying somewhere that there is a similarity between electronic music and mantras, because looping is like a mantra.

Aïsha: It’s eternity, it’s exactly that. And even rap, I like that idea in rap culture, that the people who are rapping, the African ancestors of it were the sages in the village – the ones that were giving the words to heal people. And I think now it’s a time when the artists take back that idea of healing people. For me, healing is very important in music, because I’m using a lot of binaural, I’m using my voice to guide people to empowerment and heal. My goal is to give frequencies that harmonize their body and make them feel that they have power in this world. I’m using a lot of brutal sound because it’s like Ayahuasca. If you take Ayahuasca, you throw up a lot because you have to purge. So I’m kind of purging the body, and then I’m giving grace, with the voice and binaural beats so I’m elevating – which is exactly the same process as Ayahuasca, but without the drugs. But I mean, music is drugs – there are some frequencies that can emulate LSD and some that induce MDMA. In using frequency in my live shows that normally induce the feeling of being empowered and younger. For me beauty is an idea of harmonizing and comes from the inside – when you have a good intention your beauty shines. It’s not an outside thing: it’s mathematics, but it’s not aesthetics. That’s why my album is called DNA feelings, I think we can impact our DNA. I believe in the plasticity of the brain and of DNA. And I think we can have an impact on our DNA to the extent of even changing our eye color or our physical shape with the power of intention. What I’m intending is to change DNA in a good way, to make people feel harmony with their own DNA and to embrace it. It’s not about race, not about gender – it’s beyond that. It’s about acceptance to be this form in this moment, but then in a next life to be another form. For people right now the way they look is important, but you can change that – if you don’t like it, change it! I know the idea of gender or race is very important now but I believe we are much more than a color and we are much more than our gender – the form we have is just a materialization of our brain – but you can change anything.

That ties into the idea that you have in the album about the dislocation of the alpha – that makes sense coming from a place of empathy and not of negativity, and the way I’ve seen society doing that, it brings a lot of negativity into the situation.

Aïsha: Indeed! I used to have a lot of polemics about my tracks titles but in the end, what I’m suggesting is empowerment. So if people don’t want to change, it’s because they are really afraid. And that’s because they are in resistance to that – sometimes they’re afraid to change anything because they are afraid to lose the things they have. I’m sending signals, and from the response I get I’m not the only one – I get messages from people who write me saying – I make music, make videos, I dance, I’m feeling the same. We are like little prophets in this world and we’re opening gates for people to understand that nothing is stagnating, everything is in constant movement and transforming. You have to be willing to be totally confident in your energy.

4. Community And Belonging

Aisha Devi live at MIRA Festival Berlin 2018. © Xarlene Visuals
Aisha Devi live at MIRA Festival Berlin 2018. © Xarlene Visuals

You are speaking about being connected to similar thinking artists. How do you empower the feeling of community and belonging, within the label and the artists involved? It’s a very defining thing for Danse Noire artists, the fact of performing beyond ego, and leave space for the music – that’s a state that gets communicated into the audience.

Aïsha: We know each other for a long time so you know it, the idea is spreading the knowledge and it is a struggle. We are so confronted with a society that’s always calling for your ego. It’s a constant calling for something different from you, but we have to disconnect from that and reconnect to the source – which is the will – the intention. I think I’m privileged of course that I can do music and I don’t need to go and work in a factory everyday – so I’m making music and sending messages to the privileged society as well: I know there are some people who are trapped into a difficult life – they have to feed their kids. But I’m really hopeful and really believe in that part of the bourgeois society that is willing to give up the bad habits and the need to look themselves in the mirror and contemplate their ego. The people who have the time to think, we have a mission to spread the knowledge. We have a responsibility to have an impact on the world. Be it through music or media – and I think it’s happening now, I see more and more people connecting with the idea. It’s not an individual thing, and collectivism is really important in this. The more energy is getting through, the more people are connecting. We are the minority but it’s about to change, I can feel it.

I think it’s like sticking to your dream and to the dream.

Aïsha: It’s an utopia honestly, when I was a kid I remember I was suffering for people and empathizing, I felt so alone and suffering for the world and now I realize that even the intention that you put in the world – that can have an impact and change the world honestly. We are now in an era where our intention can be materialized. In Mexico, in India, in China, there are people like us being awakened and I can feel it’s growing and the media is even freaking out. It’s exactly like when they get confronted with holistic medicine and they are like “oh my God, we are going to lose a lot of money”. We can heal ourselves with frequency and that is sabotaging capitalism. The biggest money in the world is made from wars, weapons, meat and pharma and we have an alternative answer for everything. A society in which healing people is not free is a sick society. Practicing the Secret and spreading it should be free. Here’s a thing which is amazing happening in Switzerland – despite the money and hierarchies. There are a lot of witches in Switzerland, a big history in spiritual healing. You can call for these people to heal your ailments and they’ll do it for free. And there’s one thing that happens only in Switzerland: let’s say there is a big fire with casualties and there are people going to hospital in the emergency burns units. What they do first is they call the people who know the secret, the folk healers. They have a special phone number of the witch doctor they call and they say this is the name of the person who suffered the accident, please do something – they have a set of secret mantras and prayers which they do, before any treatment is administered. In French it’s called the “coupeur de feu” or “coup-feu” which translates as fire cutter. I have a chill when I say that because it’s working. This happens in a very strict Calvinist society, but they are doing this and admit energy healing. They used to burn a lot of witches because they knew they had power and now they call and work with then – I like the idea because it means recognizing healing has power. I mentioned it once in a press sheet that we live in a para-existential spleen – I think the biggest problem for humans is living in-between dimensions: trapped between the 3D and the other dimension. I think that’s why people are depressed.

It’s like wanting to connect with your purpose but there’s external momentum getting in the way, social or physical or mental interference.

Aïsha: Indeed. And the idea of success is interfering so much with the idea of pursuing invisible realms and dimensions. I was really influenced by physics when I did the album and the title is hinting at physics and chemical research. I was influenced by the string theory, which is the most advanced theory of the origin of the world. At the core of string theory there is the unifying M theory, and M stands for magic. There is a transcendent aspect that stands at the root origin of the world and I like to know this is admitted by Nobel prize winning scientists. I think the future of physics has to be shamanic and we are the warriors of that.

5. Ancient Philosophy And Futurism

Photo credits: Shape Platform
Photo credits: Shape Platform

I would like to know more about how the mixing of ancient philosophy and futurism reflects in your music production flow. There is a recurring symbolism in this sense, but I hear it a lot in the musical references. For example you play a lot with mixing futuristic computer textures with old school tropes like rave stabs and a well defined bass line and kick drum leaving each other space, which sounds like a nod at freestyle and the rave aesthetic in the '90s.

Aïsha: That’s exactly the idea. I think Western society crushed the world – everywhere the colonialism went to crush ancestral ritualistic ways, it worked. It worked in making us forget where we come from and having us believe in the matter. My mission is to help connect with the ancestral knowledge and the energetic world. People tend to describe spirituality as something they don’t understand, they say “it’s spiritual, it’s occult”. I don’t believe in that, I believe in an energetic world. You can call it spiritual, and I love the word but it’s about a world of frequency. When we connect back to being a charge of energy and our mere visualisation a 3D materialization of our mind, we feel better and we understand better our life. I find the ancestral knowledge to be the true knowledge, the one that came before the Judaeo-Christian age, whose political motto is capitalism. Of course capitalism wants us to live in fear of dying because that makes us consume and become an actor of that capitalism. When you die you don’t care about the car you bought, you just care about the love you gave and what you shared. That’s why we have to refer to ancestral knowledge. Of course, in my music I like to use computers. I like to use the language of this moment because it highlights that frequency is not only your body – frequency is an intention. And my mac and my synthesizer become an extension of my will. Thus, they can do exactly the frequency that I am looking for and the frequency that will make you transcend. That’s why I love hi-fi.

I am using a Roland JP-8080 which Lorenzo Senni introduced me to. It’s the machine the big people from trance like Armin van Buuren used. It has a repetitive trance sound and they used it probably to hypnotize people to feel free. I am using binaurals in my music and I think that machine is using binaurals too. It has a tune to tone that makes the brain be in another state of consciousness. I am using the voice as a kind of binaural too, because I use two frequencies when I’m singing and that makes the frequency act on the brain like a drug. The difference with old school music is that it tends to sacralize the artist and I’m not into that. My idea is to put people in an entranced state but be on the same level, so there is no hierarchy. When I am singing I’m in a kind of a trance, but I hope I’m in the same trance as everyone else. Maybe I am a shaman in a way, but one who is always learning. The idea is not to guide people and keep them enslaved, but to break the enslavement.

6. Travelling

How did the places you traveled while doing the video side of the project inspire you? It really takes the viewer through a journey.

Emile: The initial idea was to capture things in 360 degrees, also while working on the videos that we are doing for two of the tracks. In the beginning there is a well from Sintra, Portugal. That is in a big castle constructed in a free masonic area – it looks like a Disneyland of rocks. The well is 27 m high and it has 9 levels, just like in Dante’s Inferno. It’s really well engineered.

How did you find out about that place?

Emile: I did a lot of research on helicoidal architecture (like the DNA helix) and structures and this is one of them. I tried to capture that in the places that we traveled – a lot of abandoned places and places where the end of capitalism becomes palpable. For example, we made a residency in the Azores, middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and on top of a mountain we found a huge five star hotel completely abandoned. We were in Shanghai also for the video we filmed with Tianzhuo Chen for the Light Luxury track on the album – there, I was able to document for the live show too.

It seems like traveling around the world, and it also gives space for all the elements, such as fire, water…

Emile: I was interested in alchemy, hermetism and the shamanistic approach. I really liked the writings of Carlos Castaneda. The hero is doing this training for something that is like how to become a sorcerer and what the master is telling him is exactly as the hermetic theories, the tonal and nagual as the two parallel worlds of the material and non material. What I like is to push boundaries of what can be seen and how we can show invisible things in video, and explore areas that are not very represented.

7. Light Luxury

Emile, how did you start collaborating with Aïsha?

Emile: I did press pictures for her at the very beginning, for her first album, Of Matter and Spirit. After that we made a video game together: ofmatterandspirit.org. You can go there and download it – it’s better to download than to play it online.

How did you think about doing a video game?

Emile: I learned to do video games by myself – my job is being a photographer. After I finished the first game I thought maybe it will be useful in videos. Later it became something more so we released it as a game on its own. The goal of this game is to show the process of meditation, the elevation of the kundalini – with different colors and chakras and meanings. For me the video game is the most synesthetic medium we have right now. You have music, images, the physical space, the interaction with the spectator. Unlike being in a cinema, within a video-game you can act and live something.

Aïsha: The thing is we don’t consider the audience as passive, but as active.

Emile: The game engine is also very useful for VGing – to react and to create space, also to blur the images we are so used to see.

Aïsha: Can you imagine, back then the shamans and the prophets only had their voice. We have video games, electronics, voice – people who understand that can induce transcendence. I think people underestimated the potential of frequency in music and they are just thinking it’s a casual thing: it’s not casual, it’s transformative – and at DNA level. I think advertising in the '90s and '00s understood how music was subliminal, and I’m quite sure they were conditioning the subliminal desire to get the new toothpaste or whatever they were selling. So now I think it’s time that the people take back these means. We are playing for an alternative crowd because not anyone is ready for that – there are people who like things being as they are. There are people who value their comfort more than anything and will realize when they are about to die that they were confused, or wrong. For those people, waking up is a right moment to do so. There are people in advertising using right now the imagery and vocabulary of ritual to sell you things – this is really fooling people who will really think that will belong to this by buying things. And it’s even worse that the big brands don’t even understand the meaning of magic, or ritual – and I’m a bit angry about that because I think that belongs to the outcasts and it belongs to the people who did the choice to renounce the comfort and the big machine so please ad people, stop that and use your words like: “success”, “gold” and don’t take our vocabulary.

Is there a chance that this would make some people interested about the actual subject and not buy the products?

Aïsha: Maybe it can work this way as well, like the whole trend with veganism and conscious living can make people aware and have an impact. When I did the record Aura for Everyone I thought of this, even if the knowledge of it is not conscious, it can have an impact.

I was wondering if the track on your new record, “Light Luxury” is about this as well.

Aïsha: You know, the etymology of luxury is very interesting, it’s “light” because in Latin “lux” means light. In our society we are substituting inner light with outer light, and my idea is to bring back the inner light because throughout your journey you need to rely on the inner light.

I think this takes us to the conclusion of the interview, my last question was what would be your advice to the people.

Aïsha: Stop praising outside of yourself. Praise inside because you have the power inside to transform your own self.

Emile: My advice would be to find your faults and make them your qualities.

A bit like the alchemy process, that your biggest weakness is your biggest strength.

Aisha: We are all imperfect so it’s about where you go through experimentation - and experimentation is knowledge any-way.

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*main photo credits: Emile Barret

About the Author

Simona Mantarlian

Simona studied Film Journalism and Script-writing at the National University of Theater and Film in Bucharest. She is a spiritual anarchist and an obsessive vinyl digger DJing underground parties in Bucharest, Berlin and Hamburg.

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