In 1998 a young, unsigned music artist carried a litany of songs from an independent label she herself had founded, Earthseed, and performed them at Lilith Fair. She killed it. The influx of music deals that followed that performance placed a then 23-year old India Arie into a proverbial tug of war. A tug of war between not only the music labels, but between staying true to herself or succumbing to the pressures of the industry.
In the July 16, 2001 issue of Jet magazine India was quoted as saying, “I knew that I wanted as many people as possible to hear my music, but I made a decision early not to compromise myself or my music.” It is this uncompromising commitment to remain true to herself that has carried her for nearly 20 years in the music industry. From a new artist with a unique appearance, strong opinions and an even stronger voice to a business woman, activist, speaker and song writer, India continues to kill it.
Her 2001 debut record “Acoustic Soul” went platinum and sold over 1.6 million copies in its first year, earning her seven Grammy Award nominations and worldwide recognition. If you didn’t have the song “Video” playing on your radio at some point in ’01, then you were either too young to remember or you were listening to CD’s on repeat of India’s Neo Soul compadres, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Maxwell, who took the genre mainstream in the 90’s and still managed to bring the fire through ’00. Either way, her music, her voice, her brand of female positivity and body awareness was everywhere and women from Tokyo to Trenton were singing right along with her.
Over the course of her career, India capitalized on the success of her debut by releasing seven studio albums and performing in over ten world tours. She has appeared in numerous magazines, performed on Broadway and for three presidents, earned twenty one total Grammy nominations with four wins, and worked with musicians and celebrities from Stevie Wonder and Deepak Chopra to Oprah Winfrey and Gabriel Bernstein.
Interestingly enough, her popularity abroad appears to eclipse her celebrity here in the U.S. With over 3.3 million records sold in the U.S. and 10 million sold worldwide, her global travels have not only expanded her record sales potential, but her mindset as well. In the last few years, India has taken on hair issues, colorism and skin bleaching, domestic violence, Black Lives Matter and a number of other social issues. In the same breath, she brings awareness to China’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lui Xiabo, a writer currently imprisoned for eleven years for undermining the state authorities, gives press conferences using bits of the Norwegian language she picked up from local friends, and doles out the time to become a U.N. Ambassador to UNICEF, where according to Rwanda’s The New Times, “As a U.N. Ambassador for UNICEF, she has traveled to Africa numerous times to address the AIDS crisis, and is featured in the documentary Tracking The Monster: Ashley Judd & India.Arie confront Aids in Africa.” Now, I recognize that the previous sentence is a run on like a mf, but let’s be honest, Ms. Arie’s accomplishments could run on too.
It is this passion for global and social issues that initially drew Griots Republic to India. When looking for someone who could speak to the goals and vision of GR, India stood out from the crowd. Though she’s a celebrity, her ability to stay true to herself and to learn from and then participate in the world, as both a traveler and an activist, spoke to the Griots’ team. Like many of you, we easily recognize those who are a part of our tribe. Apparently, we’re apart of hers as well. In responding to why she agreed to write the foreword for the new GR book #BlackTravel: The Anthology, India writes:
I LOVE WHAT GRIOTS REPUBLIC IS DOING. As African-Americans living in the 21st century, we have the ability to go where our ancestors were never able to; we simply have to remember that! With our global community, and the increasing affordability of flights, it is WORTH your money. Get online, think big, set a goal, find a destination, and GO!
In the spirit of going where our ancestors were unable to, creating a global community, and setting goals, the GR team would like to thank Ms. Arie for her participation in our first book which is a celebration of all of those things. We look forward to her new music and watching her blossom. Further, we encourage you to check out the book, #BlackTravel: The Anthology – it’s worth it!