[28 August 2002]

By Felicia Pride

Voyage to India

For the first time in my life, I had the pleasure to visit the land of India. Known for her serene aura and calming skies, I embarked upon a place that I did not want to leave. On August 14, India.Arie transformed Bryant Park into her personal solace and invited thousands of fans to join her.

The night began wearisome as I imagined the floods of bumptious people that would decorate Bryant Park. There had already been a grassroots buzz amidst various circles around town. Yet there was a sense of urgency that fueled my determination. Once I arrived my suspicions were confirmed as everyone from the pretentious and unpretentious, to the civil and uncivil, to the lost and found, combated the humidity and became fixtures of the park. But what did I expect? Collectively we all wanted to take part in an opportunity that may not present itself again—a free India.Arie concert.

About 9:30 p.m., precisely the time I and the clamorous crew in front of me became restless fighting the heat, India arrived. She radiated the stage with instant magnetism. Her look accentuated confident simplicity while armed with the most vital of accessories, her guitar. I could see her vision. My voyage to India had begun.

Among the countless reasons why India is a nova in the sky of single-dimensional female stars, the most remarkable is her veridical nature. This pristine nature permeated through the thick night air as she sung her heart, honestly and completely. The stage became her playground as she passionately enjoyed its latitude with an adolescent fervor. Throughout the night, the sleeves of her white blouse mimicked wings of flight as she swirled around stage with the grace of a dove. Absorbed in the power of the music, she joked, “Don’t get me started” when her band initiated an impromptu jam session. A distinct musical synergy between her, the band and her background singers emitted a feeling of kinship that drifted into the audience.

India’s acclaimed debut, Acoustic Soul, presented the world with a brilliant paradigm of musical sincerity. Catering to the literal definition of soul music, her album converses with the spirit and massages the mind. Powerfully, India writes and performs songs that challenge a wide range of prevailing dogmas. Her first single, “Video”, advocated an anomalous viewpoint of beauty and confident self-image. And it was this song from her sundown performance that drew the entire crowd to its feet, dancing and clapping to the liberating lyrics and guitar melody.

Other Acoustic Soul favorites, included “Brown Skin”, during which, the band broke into a gospel-like celebration while India rejoiced “Brown skin/ you know I love your brown skin/ I can’t tell where yours begins/ I can’t tell where mine ends.” Equally refreshing was the mirage of faces that sang along as she performed “Strength, Courage, & Wisdom”. “Simple”, which describes her effortless delivery, reveled in the beauty of live instrumentation.

Granted, it was a free concert so she did not perform the gamut of her album. However, she did bless the audience with songs from her aptly entitled upcoming album, Voyage to India, which is set to be released September 24. She performed the first single, “Little Things”, a signature mind-provoking motif that rested pleasantly on the ears with lyrics that grounded the spirit. The rhythm of “Good Man”, another gem, fused exceptionally with the vocal arrangement and India’s resonant voice. The brief advanced preview left the crowd yearning more of what’s soon to come. There isn’t a doubt that she will again deliver her destiny.

When my journey had come to an end, I was not ready to leave. In India, the harmonious dint of musical solidarity was my pleasure. I forgot about the stickiness in the air and the crass crew. Reality struck, Bryant Park was only a temporary portal. So now I must remain patient while I count down the days to my next Voyage to India.

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