Electro Goddess Aïsha Devi Is a Powerful Witch

Electro Goddess Aïsha Devi Is a Powerful Witch

Influenced by Nan Goldin, Aphex Twin and more, Devi's transcendent beats reach high places.

Influenced by Nan Goldin, Aphex Twin and more, Devi's transcendent beats reach high places.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

After a recent set at MoMA PS1, producer and self-described “hi-fi shaman” Aïsha Devi was approached by a young first-time listener, who thanked Devi for (to paraphrase) blowing his mind. “What [the fan] said, word for word, is my intention,” Devi later remarks. “Bringing people to enlightenment and supra-consciousness; that’s my motto and intention.”

To the uninitiated, Devi’s sound is equal parts face-melting and truth-seeking. "I shape music that is anti-gravitational and can dissolute spacetime,” she says. Having originated in the capital-U underground (think Siberian raves and queer spaces in China) Devi’s siren call has found resonance in everyone from Nan Goldin to Aphex Twin.

A self-identified outcast, Devi attracts like-minded collaborators and fans, often via deep but metaphysical connections. Aphex Twin, a.k.a. Richard James, specifically requested Devi open his April 11 set at Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner despite never having met Devi. “Aphex Twin is a legend but very alive and aware of the new music scene I am part of," Devi says. "I guess he wanted to connect the realms.”

Growing up in small-town Switzerland, Devi took pride in her half-Nepalese heritage, despite racist treatment by peers. “Switzerland is a Calvinist country where conformity and appearance are everything. My mixed undefined features, my name, my family background…I did not correspond to the stereotype,” says Devi. “I didn’t know my father but he was my hero. He [represented] the difference I was searching for.”

Raised on Mozart and Bach, Devi found a less rigid curriculum in art school, as well as an unlikely mentor in Nan Goldin. “I was never genuinely good at photography, but did like the snapshot aspect of it,” Devi says. “[Nan] told me, ‘I see something in you; there is an urgency, but don’t mimic what you like. Develop your own language."

The encounter with Goldin, legendary documentarian of New York nightlife, presaged Devi’s passage into the Berlin club scene. “The first time I saw Pan Sonic live, I was like, what’s this? It’s, like, shaking my body. Finally I felt free,” Devi recalls. “Producing music [became] a meditative process."

Aïsha Devi

Despite conjuring a kind of secular, hallucinogenic shaman with her opera-trained, decibel-pushing pipes, Devi’s unique vocal method is also rooted in science. “My grandfather was actually the pupil of the pupil of Einstein, so he [studied] quantum physics and superconductivity,” she says. “Modern physics acknowledges the existence of infinite dimensions but our society currently only considers and functions in the materialist 3D."

The Aïsha Devi experience is particularly alluring in countries where music still serves as a form of protest. “There are a lot of queer people that identify with my music because my music is non-binary in its essence; I never determine things in 'bi-,'" Devi says. "I don’t like categories; pluri-dimensions, multiplicity of identities and hybridization are the future of humanity [and the key to] an infinite creative existence.

But as her set with Aphex Twin showed in hi-fi relief, Devi’s ascent in the male-dominated electro scene is an act of avant-garde liberation in itself. “The Aphex Twin show I played in New York was a magic gathering—a true collective trance," she says. "It makes me happy, since my art school days [were] soundtracked by Aphex Twin, Autechre… A lot of guys, but girls are coming. The loop is looped.”

If God is a woman, we’d say she’s listening.

Aïsha Devi

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