WORK by BISHI
Bishi is a singer, electronic rock-sitarist, composer, producer and performer born in London of Bengali heritage. She uses dramatic technology in her live performances, ranging from interactive bodysuits to live coded and mixed reality environments.
Growing up listening to Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry - her mother, Susmita Bhattacharya is a well-known Tagore singer - Bishi appreciates the polymath of Bengali poetry and arts for their transversal reach. Tagore’s universal themes are reinterpreted for freedom in the diaspora context.
In her album ‘Gram Chara’, Bishi reflects on latent powers in the creative connections inspired by Tagore, expressing these while taking into account the complexities of identities that span the UK and India.
Bishi was influenced by Indian classical music from an early age. This led her to learn to play the sitar with training from Gaurav Mazumdar. Merging the instrument with the body, she saw the sitar as an extension of her voice. She went on to create her trademark music, innovating with the electric sitar. The echoes of classical heritage are recharted in modern urban soundscapes such as in ‘Canary Wharf’ and ‘Beach’, and in her third studio album, ‘Let My Country Awake’.
Bishi’s four-octave vocal range was her primary compositional tool on her album 'Let My Country Awake’, which calls out for empathy in a divided world. As is apparent in ‘Let My Country Awake’, the electronic choral setting captures Tagore’s well-known poem through a mix of electronic sitar and beats. Her singing evokes identities while striking out against racism.
Bishi's album was inspired by The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, where she reflects on her own experiences switching between cultures while evoking joy, pain, and isolation.
As she was too young to immerse herself in the Asian underground music scene of the 1990s, Bishi revelled in other underground music scenes and countercultural nightlife. A hybrid of rock music, alternative, electronic and queer club cultures along with social media continue to shape her musical journey, one that seeks to forge an open space for the freedom of choice, expression and movements.
Her understanding of gender fluidity stems from dualities of feminine and masculine, light and dark, good and evil. According to Bishi, these ideas ‘honour multiple angles of reality as one grows up.’
In ‘Call of the Tiger’, Bishi draws on the ambivalence of the Hindu deity, Kali, whose destructive rampage is countered by Shiva’s peace-making. Just as the energy of shakti flows with force, so too Kali is associated with the raging movements of colour, race and ambiguous identities. Through music, Bishi uses Shiva’s story as a reminder that there is no action without reaction, no deed without consequences. The presence of other people often helps to slow down a primal rampage.
In 2016, Bishi founded WITCiH (Women in Tech Creative Industries Hub), a non-profit organisation supporting women, trans and non-binary creative practitioners in technology. Salons and live events featuring diverse guests are brought to the hub, encouraging new ideas and digital practices while platforming intercultural and intergenerational stories. WITCiH - YouTube
Bishi’s music excels in fusing different musical languages, countercultures and technical skills to create new experiences. Due to her passion for avant-garde musicians – women polymath music producers and coders especially - she started curating digital festivals, and mentors and supports the LGBTQI power of the collective. She says, ‘Collectives have become less of a taboo in the last four to five years and a new subconscious has emerged inspiring mentorship of emerging artists’. Through collaborations with British musicians and other visual artists, she has been able to break the mould of, on the one hand, classical music heritage and, on the other, stereotypical popular genres like Bollywood.
Her musical piece, ‘Reflektions’, presented at the ‘Random String Festival’ held in Coventry in 2021 showcases such passion for inclusivity in music. It is about reflections on the difficulties of pandemic life. Bishi engages with the theme of future folk and how iconic urban spaces are rejuvenated by a new generation of artists.