In 2001 I was introduced to singer India.Arie by a former co-worker who asked if I had heard a song called Video. I had not, but once I did, I became a major India fan.
I remain one today. She is one of my top five favorite artists.
India and I have a few things in common – one being born in the same state (Colorado) a few months apart (I’m slightly older). I also feel our lives have a few parallels – we both appear to be at a crossroads, trying to navigate through life’s tough terrain, hoping to make it to the next destination with our spirits intact.
Four years ago, India took a self-imposed hiatus from the music industry; my hiatus is half self-imposed, half forced upon me. But that’s a story for another day.
During her break, she went through much soul-searching, healing and growth. The end result? India concluded her voice deserved to be heard. I, for one, am grateful her path lead to her latest release, SongVersation.
Created in 7 months, the album is filled with the usual raw honesty and openness fans have come to expect of India.
I’ve always believed great music can provide a listener an inside look at an artist’s life. India’s music, for me, has always been a window into her true thoughts; her lyrics constantly parallel my life in some way, and they speak on situations I’ve been or have gone through.
Consciously, I know the songs she’s writes are not about me; but my subconscious feels she’s been a fly on my wall because I relate so much to These Eyes, Ready for Love, I Choose or I Am Not My Hair.
SongVersation follows the same tradition as all previous India releases. My first full-album purchase of 2013, SongVersation is a rarity these days – you press play and let it flow. No need to skip any songs because each are worth listening to.
All four previous India albums have a song or songs I end up adopting as my own personal anthem. From Acoustic Soul it was Strength, Courage and Wisdom; on Voyage to India it was Get It Together; on Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship it was This Too Shall Pass (which actually is my favorite India song overall); on Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics it was River Rise and A Beautiful Day; and from her latest, I’ve chosen four: Just Do You, Life I Know, Break the Shell and SoulBird Rise.
What makes Just Do You great are the lyrics and the beat. You can’t help but to want to get out of your chair, grab a hair brush and dance around the room singing: “So what you waiting on?/Who you waiting for?/If you don’t take a chance you’ll/never know what’s in store/Just do you.”
I honestly could have written Life I Know as it so accurately describes the current state of my being. “My life is full in some of the most important ways/But empty in the core at the end of every day/I lock the door, turn out the lights and climb in bed and it’s all alright/‘Cause this is the life I know.”
According to her interview with Marc Lamont Hill on the Huff Post Live, India was working with singer/song writer/guitar player David Ryan Harris when he played a chord one night that lead her to go home and write a journal entry. That very personal narrative became Life I Know.
“I didn’t know that I felt that way,” India said.
When I first listened to Break the Shell, I sat in silence because the words were so moving (I admit, I shed a few tears as well). The song is my new anthem because it’s a call to let go of the things holding me back and simply fly: “Child it’s time to break the shell/Life’s gonna hurt but it’s meant to be felt/You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself/You cannot fly, until you break the shell/ Do with these words what you will/It’s time for us to be for real/You’ll be stuck on the ground until/You finally break the shell.”
SoulBird Rise speaks to the journey I’m on and where I hope it leads: “I will no longer be defined by/What someone else believes that I am/And now that I have dropped the weight/I am light as a feather/It’s time to elevate/Soulbird rise, lift your eyes/Spread your wings and prepare to fly/This is the moment of your life/Go ahead and fly.”
If you haven’t purchased SongVersation, my suggestion is to add it to your collection now. I promise you there is a song (or songs) that will speak to your spirit and move you in some way.
Lastly, India is on tour! Click here to see if she’s coming to your city. She will be in the Bay Area Sept. 24 at The Warfield in San Francisco.
Other songs on heavy rotation: Moved By You: “I love the fragrance of your voice/You’re the color of loyal/My favorite sound is your smile/I’m intoxicated with joyful/Oh I am moved by you.” ; Cocoa Butter: “My heart was bruised,/that’s what happens when you use it/Ran into someone that/turned it all black and blue/It’s been that way for/so long the site became familiar/And then your love came in/just like a natural healer.” and I Am Light: “I’m not the mistakes that I have made/Or any of the things that caused me pain/I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind/I am light.”