Bishi: It all exists in the same universe

Bishi: It all exists in the same universe

photo: Zuzanna Butkiewicz

Bishi is an innovative artist that works in the field of contemporary and multi-disciplinary art which covers and incorporates forms such as music, interactive visual technologies and performance. Without a doubt, she could be categorized as a bright and powerful example of a multi-cultural approach to creating art.

Coming from a family of well-known Indian musicians, she was raised and spent her youth in London. Her experience in music started with piano and singing lessons and then continued into her teens with learning to play the guitar and discovering and exploring the world of analog synthesizers and electronic music. Later she became the face and a resident DJ of one of the most popular London parties at the beginning of the 2000s, Kash Point, which she organized with her friend – a famous London club promoter, Matthew Glamorre. Meanwhile, she was also learning to play the sitar at Ravi Shankar’s school.

Having two albums under her belt that cover her different interests and preferences like electronic, folk, classic Western and Indian music as well as choral music, Bishi also did a lot of exciting collaborations on the side like working with Shean Lennon on the soundtrack for the horror movie “Ava’s Possessions”, supporting tours by Roisin Murphy and the ex-Kraftwerk member, Wolfgang Fleur.

Bishi: It all exists in the same universe

photo: Austin Young

Bishi is also known as an artist who is always interested in using new cutting-edge technologies in her shows. She was one of the pioneers of inventing interactive mapping, a technology that is now widely used by many artists. This interest in technology recently led Bishi to be not just an artist but also an entrepreneur and a public figure that supports technological innovations in art. A couple of years ago she started a project called WITCiH – a series of workshops, public talks and a music festival dedicated to women that use these cutting-edge technologies in their art.

In her interview with All Andorra Bishi tells us how her WITCiH project has developed and is rapidly growing, her new musical plans, favourite collaborations, places where she likes to live and create art and shares her thoughts about Brexit and the political situation in the UK at the moment.

Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov

Hi Bishi! As far as I understand, besides creating music you are also very deeply involved in other activities like being a public figure behind the movement WITCiN – which is a series of workshops, public talks and a musical festival. Can you please tell more about it, what is this WITCiH all about?

Yes, of course. When I was touring with my second album “Albion Voice”, I realized that there is a big community of artists that are working in the same field as me, by integrating music, visual art and performance. For some people, it’s hard to understand how this integration and multi-disciplinary approach works. It’s becoming a more adjustable way of doing things, but still, it is complicated when it comes to technical things like booking tours for these kinds of artists or doing the right marketing.

My second album tour was a one-woman audio-visual extravaganza – just me alone with a sitar singing in front of an interactive screen. And sometimes it was hard to explain the venues how it all works, that it is not just a singer with a simple projector and a screen, it’s a much more technically advanced thing, it’s almost like building a special installation for each place when I’m doing a show. And it was one of the goals of WITCiH to let the art and musical world know more about how technical these multimedia projects are.

My second album was a one woman audio-visual extravaganza

Actually, WITCiH means Women in Technology Creative Industries Hub and I started to do this project when I realized that there are a lot of women involved in creating these new forms of art which integrate music, performance and visuals. First I started WITCiH like a blog and I thought about women who were pioneers of using cutting edge technologies in their art like Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Suzanne Ciani and who could be there modern daughters and contemporary voices of these mothers of inventions.

Then I started to organize different WITCiH salons and public talks that have already been going for 2 years now, and I did the first WITCiH festival last September and am now launching a video podcast. So this whole thing is really growing at the moment and I became not just an ordinary artist but also an entrepreneur. And I think this is the way of surviving now in the digital era for many artists – becoming an entrepreneur and building their own enterprise. We can see this tendency all over the world.

WITCiH is really growing at the moment

As I understand, using cutting edge technologies was always a big part of your work, you were even one of the pioneers and inventors of interactive mapping, which has now really developed and is widely used by different artists.

Yes, around 10 years ago we invented a technology called Oscillar with an artist Oscar Sol. It was a great experience to be a part of it, inventing a technology that made the screen interactive with the performance that is happening on stage. Oscillar was the first system in this area, it worked via sensors on the body and was really heavy and fragile compared to the modern software with which you can do the same things but in a less complicated way. But it is really nice to know that we were one of the first who started the exploration and developing of this kind of technology.

Around 10 years ago we invented one of the first interactive mapping technologies

Do you feel that now you are more like an artist or an entrepreneur?

Actually, I feel that I am both. My time is spread between curating WITCiH and making music. Also, at the moment I’m doing a documentary movie for Radio 4 that is made with the collaboration of tech. company, ROAI, which belongs to Pharrell Williams.

And I have a lot of things happening in music at the moment too. A set of new releases coming – I have a grant for writing music and taking part in Deila Derbyshire Day in November from Deila Derbyshire Estate. In May I’m releasing an EP and going on tour with an artist called Emmy the Great. And in September I’m going to release an album which was written and recorded in New York last year. So musically it is going to be a busy year too.

And what will be the musical direction of your new works?

It will be electronic classical music, the kind of thing that I’m into. A mix of western and Indian classical music, a lot of choral and electronic sounds.

Can we say that besides music, you have also shaped new entrepreneurial skills for yourself?

Well yes, but I think I also use (in my approach of curating WITCiH) the things that I learnt when I was organizing and running club nights in the 2000s with my good friend Matthew Glamorre . I learned so much at that time about how to put together magical and talented people and how to create the right vibe.

You don’t organize parties anymore?

Actually no. London’s nightlife has changed a lot since the economic meltdown. In my 20’s we used to go out every night, there was a lot of good parties in small, underground venues. Now almost all of these venues are closed and people are mostly going out only at the weekends to big clubs and events. London has become very expensive and people in their 20’s just can’t afford to go out every night and they mostly just sit at home surfing Facebook. I’m not saying that it is good or bad, but the fact is that the way of social communication has changed a lot. But it’s great that I can use all these skills that I have learned in the clubland in organizing WITCiH events now.

photo: Zuzanna Butkiewicz

WITCiH is dedicated to women that are using cutting edge technologies in creating art. This technological aspect always played a big part in your music but on the other hand, you always had a classical and traditional element with your singing and playing the sitar. What is more important for you, to create new or traditional forms and ways of creating music?

A mix of everything. It all exists for me in the same universe. I reflect in my music all the things that I’m a part of. My mother is a well-known Indian singer, so I had a strong base of knowing Indian classical music from my childhood and also had vocal and piano lessons. In my teens, I started to learn to play the bass-guitar and explore analog synthesizers. Then, when I met Matthew Glamorre, we started to do a club night Siren Suite with classical music but with a new modern twist. We did it for a couple of years and then started another club night, Kash Point, which was inspired by the growing electro-clash scene that was popular then. I started to DJ there and at the same time I was learning to play the sitar. My first album had a heavy influence from folk music. I try to put all these influences together in my music – electronic, classical, folk.

Do you have some plans to make videos for your new music?

Yes, I’m thinking about it and trying to raise some funds at the moment to make it happen.

In the past, you had really great and colorful videos. Who directed them for you?

Matthew Glamorre did them. We are still good friends but we are not working together anymore. So my doors are open for new amazing directors to work with.

Matthew Glamorre did my videos, so now my doors are open for new amazing directors

During your musical career, you worked on a lot of collaborations with different great artists. Which ones were the most memorable for you?

I really loved working together with Patrick Wolf. He really understands me musically, this electronic folk that he is doing is really close to the things that I do. And he is really pioneering and has a lot of ideas in terms of finding the right beats and musical production.

Really loved to work together with Patrick Wolf

And recently I worked with Sean Lennon. He wrote the music for the horror movie “Ava’s Possessions” and I sang on some of the tracks. It was a great experience. He is a fantastic human being and he really knows how to work and how to pull out the best from people.

You seem to be a citizen of the world. You have Indian roots and were raised in London and were travelling a lot and lived in New York for a few years. Is there any place where you feel most at home?

I feel like I’m home everywhere where I can be creative and do art and really happy that I have had this opportunity to travel a lot and to live in different places. But I think that most of all I feel at home in London since it is the place where I was raised, but also I feel at home in India and in New York and LA- I love the energy of these cities.

I think cities like London, New York and LA are really good for a person like you because they have this multinational vibe and a strong mix of different cultures. What do you think about the Brexit situation, aren’t you aware that it will have a bad impact on London’s multiculturalism?

Well, I can say that the country now is incredibly divided and it’s a really toxic environment. I can’t really predict what will happen but I know that it’s not going to be good. And it is really sad because the people that voted for Brexit were just fooled, they voted for the pack of lies. I think for many it was a kind of a rebel vote because the economic situation hadn’t been good for the last 10 years, the country was not developing and there was a really low level of care about the needs of the ordinary people, so it was like saying “Fuck You!” to the government.

The whole vote was based on complete nonsense, it was not done on purpose, it was just a political and populist move by David Cameron and this is why politicians in the parliament can’t come to a final agreement about Brexit, and it’s such a rollercoaster and a mess for the country. I think that the people who voted for Brexit at the end will not find any benefits from it and will only lose.

Since you are really an artist that tours a lot and has travelled a lot with shows around the world, do you have some favorite places where you like to perform?

I really like to perform in London, Berlin, LA, Toronto, Vancouver and I like other UK cities outside London like Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham. I think in these cities the audience is much more appreciative and open, so it’s easier to communicate there and to talk with people. The big, main cities are always good, but in smaller ones, the vibe is friendlier and people are less snobbish.

Have you ever been to Andorra and would you like to perform here if there was ever the possibility?

I have never been to Andorra, but I would love to come and do a show if there was ever the chance. I have the impression that it is a really unique, small and beautiful country. And I really love mountain view.

We really hope that there will be this kind of possibility sooner or later and thank you for this interesting interview Bishi!

Read more: The sound of music with Dmitry Tolkunov ...