A wall of vibrating bassline and guttural chanting travels through space, penetrates the skin and bones, reaches the stomach and resonates far beyond reason. Some might find it almost brutal but a harsh action is what it often takes to liberate yourself from old conceptions and mental rubbish.
When Aïsha Devi performs live, her music carries an intention to hijack corrupted minds and purge unsound bodies. The Swiss-Nepalese producer, vocalist, and owner of the Danse Noire label injects a dose of pure willpower and symbolism into her ritualistic electronic albums Of Matter And Spirit (2015) and DNA Feelings (2018) to disclose forgotten knowledge and transcend together with her listeners.
Mariana Berezovska: You often refer to meditation, altered states of consciousness, transcendence, binaural frequencies, and the intention to heal people when speaking about your music. How do you apply these processes to your production and performances?
Aïsha Devi: I connect the dots and I realize that the origin of what we see and what we don’t see is vibration – it’s oscillation. This was already discovered by quantum physics in the 50s. Oscillation is two waves that are oscillating together; electrical waves and magnetic waves produce a vibration. Frequencies, music, and even emotions create oscillation. In modern physics, there is knowledge that there are eleven dimensions and we live in the third of them — the physical dimension. My idea with music is to transcend the third dimension and to acknowledge that we are living in a world that is not only what we see. I want to talk about the invisible. One of the latest physics theories, string theory, argues that strings are the vibration of everything. It’s funny because scientists are studying all the dimensions, and they can depict a dimension. But a new theory coming from string theory is the M theory, where ‘M’ stands for magic. So they acknowledge that to reach the highest dimension we should go through the highest states of consciousness. We cannot incorporate the eleventh dimension, but we should transcend it.
When you disintegrate your ego, your mental intellectual process, it’s the same as when you burn paper – it’s disintegrated but the idea of the paper is still there, it’s going through the air. Then there is light [points to the middle of the forehead], and then there is the crown [above the head]. A lot of ancestral knowledge, in pre Judeo-Christianism, is in the crown. This is the idea, the intention, and the intention is beside the frequency. There is the same concept by Carl Gustav Jung. When he talks about anima it means that you animate something with an intention. So I animate music, I animate the frequency with my intention to heal people. And through that idea of anima and my intention the willpower is already healing.
MB: And willpower – is it something that you are constantly working on in order to enlarge and expand it?
AD: Exactly. The willpower should be clean from any ego. I like the idea that when the ego leaves the light comes in. The ego is something that always makes you wait for legitimation. And I just let pure intention with the idea of healing intervene in my music. The space and emptiness in music for me is the same as in physics, and I always incorporate a physics concept at some point when I am making music. In music I use space as a kind of energetic organizer, a momentum, or a skeleton that actually organizes the tone and when information is coming.
There are different levels of comprehension and our brain has limits and I want to break these brain limits. It’s similar to what shamans do when they are healing, or to when a huge trance is playing really hard, though the intention is not the same. And for me it’s very important that the intention is right because it’s a really powerful tool. So I am using this hypnosis to really elevate people. I use my voice to guide people, although sometimes it can be overwhelming. My live performance is never the same and I never sing the same but I use my voice as a little string to bring people higher and not down. Shamans have an intention of healing but some people use these hypnosis techniques even in film or in commercials.
MB: So this means that there is also a lot of intentional hijacking in TV commercials? And maybe those ear worms that stay in our heads forever are also made using very smart sound techniques.
AD: Yes, definitely! There are many techniques that capitalism is using to generate desire in you. In advertising, they know about mind manipulation. In cinema, they know how to provoke emotion with sound. Of course, it’s entertainment and it’s sometimes it’s quite predictable — like heavy bass makes you cry. I always hijack these cinematic tools to bring people to different places – not to make them cry but to reset their body and mind.
The difference to movies is that they leave people with this sad feeling, whereas I would use the emotion to open a gate to something more elevating. These cinematic tools are very well designed so I use them.
I remember a concert of Autechre [English electronic duo] some time ago. The bass was so strong and vibrating, I was loving it but I didn’t feel well. It was too strong for my body, so I had to go outside and have some fresh air. I really think that there should be some brutal signals in our life. Sometimes people have to go through death around them or huge desperation to transform themselves.
MB: Pain and ‘bad’ emotions are not accepted by our ‘norms’. Embracing the pain can be like exercising asanas, when you actually have to wait and realize how it feels. And in our culture we are taught to avoid painful emotions and negative feelings. Sadness is accepted, but we are not allowed to experience mind-changing.
AD: Crying and mourning is a weakness since we think that success is being an asshole and that being true to your emotion does not lead you anywhere. Some say that when you are in a church you should not scream and you have to behave. I don’t believe in this. I think that changing your body only happens with a brutal thing. That’s why I like metal and drones, because it’s purging your body, and it’s cleaning old conceptions from you. Then you can have new conception. It’s like Shiva [one of the principal gods in Hinduism] — destroying and building at the same time. This is what I want to do with my music: destroy old beliefs to bring new possibilities, or alternative beliefs, or beliefs that we forgot. Beliefs that we not conscious of.
MB: You say you want to change DNA. Do you think we are born more open to experimentation than when we become grownups?
AD: Oh sure! Its social corruption and the legacy from previous generations. We inherit cultural knowledge but in our DNA we also inherit the non-knowledge, the forgotten things. When I produce music I never think whether it’s going to be a nice song. I ask myself if it’s going to resonate in your bones, cells, DNA. This is something that society does not want us to know — the power of the mind is almighty and our society is submissive. With my music I want people to understand how empowered they can be because the intention you put into things already comes to life. Everything I have in my life I decided since I was a kid. I always went further than the walls that I am inside.
Electronic music is becoming very political but also anthropologically it will be very important. It is the only application for me that has the ability to have a ritualistic physical impact on your body. The voice is important as a human connection but when I am singing it’s not so much about the words, it’s the frequency. In electronic music, loops and frequencies would work the same as a kind of mantra. And pop is not doing this.
MB: And yet, it’s not a secret that there are more people who like pop more than those who like your music. Do you think it’s because our brains are so corrupted and unused to making an effort to comprehend something more complex than three notes?
AD: It’s a conjunction of things. My music is less appealing and less glamorous at first, but it is also less known. Again your brain is more content with fifth and seventh harmonization than semi and quarter tones. From an early age, our ear is trained and conditioned for contentment, to pleasant sounds. But the problem is that contentment does not lead to enlightenment.
MB: It’s a very personal matter but as far as I know you also used to have identity and body issues. And you got to the point where you had to change it, which means that you were not always as enlightened as you feel now, and you also had to come to this state of mind, right?
AD: Of course. You have to heal yourself before you can heal others. My whole life is a social contradiction. I don’t know my father and my mother is just toxic. I come from a dysfunctional family. I always had to build an invisible cosmos around me, so I always had to project myself and my intention.