Aïsha Devi is not the pop star you want her to be. Since flirting with the pop persona earlier in life, the electronic music producer has turned inward, focusing on the collective, healing power of rave. She now calls herself a “hijacker” of the system. The Danse Noire label boss has been contesting society’s structures through this medium, and she re-adopted her birth name in a defiant move to forget her past.
Compelling us to transcend and enlighten, the Swiss-born artist injects physics, ritual practice, and the power of specific audio frequencies to her work – ideas provoked after taking up metaphysics. Since releasing her debut album Of Matter and Spirit via Houndstooth in 2015, Devi has let out the divergent DNA Feelings in 2018, and most recently this year, S.F.L. But seeing her live is an altering experience in itself.

Through audio-visual shows and gigs in unpredictable venues, rave has a new, ritualistic meaning for Devi. As electronic music continues to expand around the world, its communal impulses go against the grain of today’s extreme political climate and disillusioned idolatry of pop culture. Raves are our modern temples, thinks Devi, and here is where the revolution will take place. She wants to change our minds – and our bodies – through music. Today, we chat with her about what makes the perfect rave, how we can avoid categorisation and even the possibility of a David Lynch collab. Let’s call these her ‘infinite wisdom’ – may you find enlightenment below.
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You are known for the inspiration meditation has had on your work. Are you a spiritual artist?
When people see or read the word ‘spiritual’ it defines something they don’t really understand. For me, it’s more than spirituality, it’s about the invisible world. It’s about the energetical world. I see the word spiritual more and more, it’s kind of branding now. To some people, it implicates the notion of the religious. I'm really working outside of any dogmatic world, with metaphysical concepts that are anti-any religion. I work with [audio] frequencies and vibrations. But I think it is important to define my perspective and my vision – and where music is going – maybe with different words than spiritual, even if I like it.
Are you trying to change music culture, or society generally?
We are in a kind of a transitioning era, where the notion of what is right and what is wrong is collapsing. I think the vision of the successful Western capitalist culture is also collapsing. We’re in a very fetishized, consumerist society. I think that to elevate in higher dimensional space, we have to transcend. I’m playing with the system. I love to hijack. I’m doing counter-propaganda, you know, giving people some power. I love the idea of raving. Rave, I think, is actually incorporating the very notion of transcendence and trance.
Are you bringing healing and ritual to rave music? Some societies have negative connotations towards the ravers and the scene.
Of course. Someone once told me, ‘Oh, I didn't take any drugs tonight, but I totally had an out of body experience.’ We are relentlessly looking to get out of our little 3D dimensional space, and I think that music has this ability. That’s why music is so under-control. As humans, we are craving all kinds of transcendence. Drinking alcohol is already an alibi to reach an outer state of consciousness because you’re escaping your very corporeality. That’s transcendence.
Through meditation, I realised that the essence of music is ritualistic. I really think electronic music is the most contemporary expression of ritual music because there is a repetitive pattern. It’s the very repetition of a pattern, or a loop, or a mantra in ritual, that will put people in a heightened state. That is what I’m aiming to do, healing people with a very specific frequency. I think that’s why people absolutely love rave because there is that sense of cultural freedom.
How do you inspire transcendence with the frequencies you use?
I think the revolution will be frequential. I really think that our bodies have a plasticity and any matter can change its shape. I’m using untuned frequencies that can actually heal your bones. I’m also using frequencies that induce relaxation or a meditative or dreamy state. I’m also using a lot of binaural sounds. Through music, I’m rewiring your synapses. Where I place my voice is not on the diatonic scale, so it’s not the Western-typical scale. I use semi-tone and quatra tones that actually have the ability to put you in an altered state of consciousness. I will put myself in an altered state of consciousness, which is why when I’m playing live, I’m in a trance. I’m sending a signal that doesn’t belong on earth, it’s so huge that it would simulate a kind of cosmic space without any kind of ending. This is what music is, it’s connecting you with your infinity, you know. I can play a loop on Ableton and die, and it will still continue to play. I like the idea that music will survive.
“Through meditation, I realised that the essence of music is ritualistic. I really think electronic music is the most contemporary expression of ritual music because there is a repetitive pattern.”
What’s your ideal clubbing scene?
I love the idea of playing in nature. I really love the idea that there is no roof, and we are in a direct correlation with the cosmos and we resonate without limitation. I also really, really love a good old warehouse, where you feel the history and the idea that capitalism has abandoned that place. I think this is the perfect temple. I really like that idea that it now smells of beers and dust and it’s not clean.
So is your music a way to stay challenged and stimulated by the world, instead of being passive as a society?
Definitely, yeah. We live in a submissive society. I’m a hijacker, a revolutionist for sure. I'll never conform to a system. I never have since I was a kid, I never felt that I belonged to a system. I think that any role or category is already an oppression.
The Queens of the Electronic Underground line-up was very empowering. It was an all-female line-up, which is great, but you have previously spoken about not identifying as a category or woman. Could you elaborate on that?
The line-up was beautiful and it was powerful, but then it was still girls – just girls – who were gathered because they were girls. And I don’t wanna see myself as, ‘Oh, we have a line-up of four guys, we need a girl, let’s take Aïsha Devi!’ For me, it will still be a quota to be there as a number or token. I was feminist until I discovered that there was a more empowering form of protestation. I had a track that started with, “If you name you, you negate me”, meaning that if you put a label on me, I will lack something else. Of course, I have the appearance of a girl and I can suffer from that sometimes, but I wanna get out of victimisation because victimisation is also a political alibi.
I live a kind of out of body experience when I perform. I’m out of my physicality so of course there is no gender when I do this. When you are in a trance you don’t identify yourself with a girl or a boy or even your own history. I think I have a responsibility to send a signal that we have the choice not to belong to any category.
When you ‘re-became’ Aïsha Devi, was it to challenge the idea of the egotistic pop star persona?
Oh yeah, definitely. When I came back to the Aïsha Devi name, it was a kind of self-baptism where I decided that my childhood would not make me suffer anymore. That was a very important stage in my life. The idea of forgetting your childhood is very important because then you realise that you are not a victim of this world. Society is using a lot of your ‘lack’ instead of using your power because they don’t tell us what our power is. But I’m telling people what our power is.
Is music going in this direction more? 
I think there is growing to be a very non-passive, proactive idea of the audience. I’m really resonating with the audience when I’m playing – I love the idea of having a transversal energy between us. I see myself as a victor of energy – a kind of super-connector! I’m not sure of the idea of a stage anymore, where you are still at the top of the pyramid. I think we learn from each other. That’s the whole idea of enlightenment and that’s the opposite of pop music – the idolisation of a star. Stars only exist in the sky. This new era of ritualistic, electronic music is absolutely the opposite idea of ‘starification’.
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When you’re in a trance and performing, do you sense how the audience is responding?
Yeah, totally! Because it’s not about seeing them or watching them, it’s about feeling them – the energy. I could tell you with my eyes closed. It’s never a bad or a good gig, I don’t see that. A gig is like a good movie. You have different levels of understanding. I’m really connected to Lynch’s work because he has that multidimensional expression. I’m not expecting anyone to have the same reaction to my music, that would be wrong. I’m putting people in a lot of discomfort – emotional, physical and cultural – with my music. I want it to be disturbing because you have to let go if you want to embrace everything around it. It’s about sabotaging the mental comfort you have.
Have there been any wild reactions to your gigs?
I like gigs where people are not seated and their bodies respond to me. I also like the idea of putting people in a place where they might not be educated to their surroundings. In a museum, where people get crazy and dance and don’t even think about the white walls and where people don’t know how to react. I love the idea of people dancing in the MoMA or in The Barbican. When I played at the Barbican, people were seated – that’s probably the most unexpected response. I finished and there was a silence. I look up, I see people with their eyes open, like everybody had taken drugs, and there was silence. It felt like a moment that these people were not educated for. I love this. Then I received the warmest response.
What about the audio-visual aspects you bring into shows?
The visuals are part of the senses. As with music, I send frequencies and beats and pulses that will disorientate you. I’ve been working a bit with Emile Barret – we’ve been touring together for about two years now and we’ve been working together with this idea of building a visual, then disrupting it and then disintegrating it. You think, ‘My feet are on the ground, but my head is on the roof.’ I’m playing with anti-gravitational signals and the idea that you can exist in a total projected reality – like a video game. I love video games. You can build stuff, project yourself and still have an absolute, real existence, yet your body is not there. It’s a bit like my track, “I'm not always where my body is”.
Like losing yourself in another world?
You might do for an instant, but I give you the tools to connect with a higher consciousness, so in fact, you’re not lost at all. You connect with a sense that you exist beyond this life, beyond this formal structure.
“I’m a hijacker, a revolutionist. I’ll never conform to a system. I think that any role or category is already an oppression.”
I notice your tattoo in the palm of your hand. What came first, the album (DNA Feelings) or the tattoo?
The album, definitely! When I did the album, I learned so much. The more you meditate, the more you understand that when you meditate, you reach a certain field of knowledge, which is kind of our dormant collective knowledge. I reach out to this and I made connections when I made this album, and it’s very much a discovery of things.
Is there an end goal to enlightenment?
At first, it was more about not being so much of an outcast. I went through every stage of outcast possibilities – self-harming, suicidal, hiding, depression… I did it all. I went through all of this. Brutality… it was extreme. I was trying to find out how to escape this body and then, when I started meditation, this all just left my body and my mind at some point.
I guess it’s about reconnecting with ourselves as much as other people.
It’s also about immortality and our infinite.
You mentioned David Lynch – your work almost reminds me of his. He also meditates and is interested in the transcendental. Is he an influence?
Definitely! There were definitely people when I was a teenager. When I was feeling lost in the world, I embraced them as an alternative. David Lynch is a bit different. I liked his movies a lot aesthetically, but I was always connected to his melancholia and I was always sure there was something else other than just a movie. Then I realised he was also doing transcendental meditation. He is doing in film exactly what I am trying to do in music. It’s the possibility for multidimensional space that I like in him. It has a kind of unconscious impact on people. I was touched by this more than anything else in his movies.
Would you collaborate?
Okay, let’s do a collab! (Laughs)
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