Dakini: A Drum & Bass Exploration Of ‘The Feminine’
On November 11, 2021, Anushka Manchanda known also as ‘Kiss Nuka,’ released a rather mysteriously titled drum & bass track accompanied by some equally mysterious, dark-toned visuals. Named after the female Tantric deities in Tibetan Buddhist culture, the piece of music came into existence as an ode to the ‘feminine’. This is a way for the artist to symbolize the process of unlearning and healing through tapping into her musings of Dakinis, who are female entities symbolizing transformation and the movement towards sunyata– a state of nothingness.
A state of absolute nothingness is also a state of absolute possibility and potential. Nuka visualizes this unlearning and movement towards possibility as an embracing of the feminine, a spiritual signifier of the source of love, compassion, nourishment, creativity and growth.
“Our species is disconnected from nature, which is the very thing that gives us sustenance and life, yet it is the very thing that we're destroying,” she says, describing the need to embrace the feminine inside us all.
Commenting on the rigid structurality of societal conditioning, she says
Via Anushka Manchanda
The feminine, according to her, is a state of being that is outside the bounds of gender, into a system of channelizing energies that sources empathetic growth.
Humanity has tried far too long to tame and exert dominance on the surroundings it is a part of in a manner that is delusionally disconnected, which is far from the truth as we are all ultimately beings of nature. She believes that the wounds we inflict on nature consequently hurt us as one consolidated being, and that in order to heal nature, one must also heal themselves by a process of deconditioning. We must move towards the primal and wild, a part of our innate nature.
It is this deconditioning that is embodied in the introspective ambiguity of the drum and bass sounds that form the core of Nuka’s release.
Via Anushka Manchanda
Nuka’s creative process with the music was initiated by a half-time type groove which she doubled and evolved into the drum and bass core it has. With a push-and-pull tide like quality to the groove, the track guides the listener into a calm introspective state full of contained energy, which is then nudged in directions via guitar riffs.
It was after her construction of the drum and bass foundation that she invited her brother Shikhar to play the guitar, which was something that they hadn’t done together before. “We've co-produced tracks but this time, I had him coming in as a musician. He came in and started to jam, and that's when I knew that this was going to be Dakini.”
The sound of electric guitars to her felt like home, owing to their formative influences of genres such as rock and roll. The collaboration also became a way for her relationship with her brother to heal post somewhat of a rough patch and blossom by sharing the same ‘flow state’ that formed the crux of their musical experience. She believes that the strong influences of women role models Shikhar grew up around in their house is also an influence on his tendency to channelise ‘the feminine.’ She describes him as someone who is emotionally intelligent and sensitive as a result of that.
“With my music production work, there are two parts to it; the first part is really where I'm letting it ‘flow.’ The second part is where there is no flow, it's about the structure and taking all the elements and bringing them together into one cohesive piece. This way works for me, because when I sit down to produce something, I don't sit down with a brief. I'm not like, okay, today I’m going to make a song about this particular subject or something in this particular genre. I just let it flow. I'm not thinking, I just let it flow. So the second half of it where I am structuring everything becomes all the more important,” she explains.
Embracing this sense of flow leads to the clarity in vision for the music video. She says that it all came to her together, as one clean whole, as an interplay of darkness and enlightenment that formed the visual tone reference for the video. The overall tone for the video is cold and moist and features Nuka as well as a person she shares a special bond with in a wilderness type of a setting with calmly ominous nightscapes.
“Because the Dakinis are mysterious and elusive, most of the shots that you see of the dakini in the video, the part that I'm playing– you don't see her very clearly. She’s always a little bit out of focus, or you see elements of her. There are places where you see her when she chooses to reveal herself to you.
Then comes their playful nature. This young man sits in practice and has his eyes closed when she starts popping up in his mind. You see bits and pieces of her as she blows into his ear while he turns to seek her, but she’s not there. He can feel her presence approaching him but she isn’t really there. So she's teasing him, that's her playful nature.
Then there’s Dakini as the guide. So you see a couple of places in the video where they kind of lock into each other and they are mirroring each other's movements. She’s leading him and he is following– for instance, the head rotation at the beginning and the overlap of the Capoeira movements right at the end of the video.”
The martial arts teacher in the video is Sucuri, Nuka’s Capoeira teacher. Sucuri seems to display a similarly strong sense of the aforementioned flow in terms of his movements drawing from his practice as a Capoeirista. He can be seen sensing the presence of his feminine spiritual guide embodied by Nuka, much like the fabled Dakinis who urge him to flow inhibited and faster with time.
Capoeira as a martial art-form was born as a rebellion by enslaved Brazilians who were adept at channelizing the flow of energy in their body to execute seamless complex maneuvers. It is a state of union between the mind and body as one and is historically rooted in a desire to break free and not be restricted. It is this inspiring struggle for freedom that informs Nuka’s insertion of the artform in the video to complement and portray a different type of spiritual struggle.
For her, working with her teacher was an enriching experience as while he is her guide in matters of body movement, as the director of the video she had the unique opportunity to guide him through her vision of the video. So the roles were reversed and formed the basis of a pleasant experience. As she guided him in front of the camera, in the visual narrative, too, she nudged him on with his movements to attain enlightenment which is represented by a superimposed set of frames of a bright moon with Sucuri’s forehead.
With commendable effort and vision, Kiss Nuka has been able to weave a cohesive piece of art that is one, or whole, in terms of the soundscape and visuals, a feat that was rendered possible due to her doing everything herself. It is safe to say that the seasoned actor has embraced a whole world of possibilities in terms of music production, direction, editing and writing in her attempt to explore her potential as an artist. In many ways, that endeavour is also a part of the message that Dakini conveys. With spiritual overtones interlaced with a deep concern for nature both within and around as a revolution on many fronts, Dakini is an intriguing tribute to the wild unexplored potential of human nature.