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India Arie Simpson was born in 1976 in Denver, Colorado, to parents from Memphis and Detroit. She often explains she put a dot in her name in order to make it more recognizable. Her father, basketball player Ralph Simpson, and her mother named her India in tribute to Gandhi because her due date matched his birthday. But why did her parents call her "Arie"? "My mother called me that, but she didn't know what it meant. She just liked the sounds of it. We later found out it means 'lion'" answers India.Arie. And her mother also gave her a musical education: she could teach her nearly everything about singing and songwriting as she grew up in Detroit, the hometown of Motown. India.Arie doesn't make any secret of the fact that she loved Stevie Wonder when she was a kid, but many other artists influenced her youth: Donny Hathaway, James Taylor, Vince Gill, Oleta Adams, George Benson, Bonnie Raitt and another her idol, Roberta Flack. Although she was too young to join the school band, little India took up sax, baritone clarinet, trumpet and many other instruments. In the meantime she started singing in school choir. The Simpson family moved to Atlanta when India.Arie was 13 years old and after high school she began playing the acoustic guitar while she was studying Jewellery Making at Savannah College. "It was my first instrument I played that I could sing with", India recalls, "and that trasformed my life and changed my musical expression".


The fertile Atlanta urban music scene led the formation of artist's collective called Groovement and an independent label, Earthshare, which released a compilation CD featurin India.Arie's first songs. In 1998, their independently-released compilation led directly to a call for a second stage spot at Sarah McLachlan's Lillith Fair in St. Louis and Nashville. Just her tour appearance drawed the attention of several talent scouts. Then she met Motown CEO, Kedar Massenburg, and signed in 1999 to record her debut album. "He told me he'd never make me compromise my artistic integrity" says India.Arie. But she tested very much Motown president's patience by taking almost two years in recording her first album. In 2000, a Spike Lee's movie soundtrack, 'Bamboozled', previewed several tracks from the India's album. At last, 'Acoustic Soul' was released on 27th March, 2001. The CD was a successful combination of classic soul, blues and modern hip-hop syle productions. Track coproducer Blue Miller, Mark Batson, Bob Powers and Carlos "Six July" Broady all co-wrote with her, trying to mix acoustic and hip-hop beats. The album's first single, 'Video' (a sample of 'Fun'), received strong club and radio play but the whole album didn't receive the heavy radio play that tipically pushes pop and rap albums. In spite of that, 'Acoustic Soul' was certified gold within 6 weeks by the RIAA for sales of 500,000 units. Nevertheless it held out 60 weeks in the Billboard Top 100 chart and after one year it had sold over 2.5 million units worldwide. Almost immediately India.Arie was called to collaborate with artists like the veteran rocker John Mellencamp (on 'Peaceful World'), the jazz-crossover talent Cassandra Wilson (on 'Just Another Parade') and many others. Sade personally invited India to open her 2001 tour, expanding her initially scheduled 28 arena dates to 40. In 2002 she also wrote 'Good Man' (with background arrangement by Musiq Soulchild) for the Mel Gibson movie 'We Were Soldiers'. In January 2002 India.Arie got Grammy nominations in seven categories. Even though she took home no awards on Grammy night, in June Black Entertainment Television (BET) named her best R&B female artist. In September 2002 her sophomore album entitled 'Voyage To India' saw the light, led off by the first single 'Little Things' (an updating of Rufus' 'Hollywood'). India.Arie and her musical director, Shannon Sanders, co-produced 90% of the CD together. A lot of songs were written at 6 o'clock in the morning, after working in the studio and they often represent a voyage, a true representation of her last years. In 2003 India.Arie toured with DJ Rogers Jr promoting his debut album 'Emosoul'. A new album is on the horizon but one thing is sure: in the next years India.Arie will go on to show her innumerable talents: singing, playing, arranging, writing and producing; she will be able to do all that combining rich melody, natural instrumental textures and a deeply powerful message: love yourself!


Claudio Balestrino [Just Soul]


Quotes from: Specific quotes from interviews with New York Rock.

Acoustic Soul (2001) [Motown]

  1. Intro
  2. Video
  3. Promises
  4. Brown Skin
  5. Strength, Courage & Wisdom
  6. Nature
  7. Back To The Middle
  8. Ready For Love
  9. Interlude
  10. Always In My Head
  11. I See God In You
  12. Simple
  13. Part Of My Life
  14. Beautiful
  15. Outro
  16. Wonderful
Acoustic Soul
Acoustic Soul
Voyage To India (2002) [Universal]

  1. Growth
  2. Little Things
  3. Talk To Her
  4. Slow Down
  5. The Truth
  6. Beautiful Surprise
  7. Healing
  8. Get It Together
  9. Headed In The Right Direction
  10. Can I Walk With You
  11. The One
  12. Complicated Melody
  13. Gratitude
  14. Good Man
  15. God Is Real
Voyage To India
Voyage To India
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