We caught up with India ahead of her performace this Saturday at Pacha for Groove Odyssey Presnts house Legends to discuss her past, present and future in music.
DJ Leo: We are really excited that you are coming to perform at the Groove Odyssey:House Legends event on February 1st at Pacha and are you looking forward to the show?”
India: “I’m really excited to be singing at the Groove Odyssey event and I’m set to blow it up on the night. I’m very proud to be a part of this amazing party, I know everyone's gonna feel it and dance and party...we are just going to have a great time.
I’m sure everyone is waiting for the classics...it’s music for the soul and I want to send a big hug and a kiss to everyone that’s going to be there”
DJ Leo : You have some amazing classic tracks with Masters At Work, and out of all the tracks you made from that era, do you have a favourite or a particular memory how one of them was put together?
India: “It was an honour to work with Louie Vega and Kenny Dope Gonzalez, and I’ve known Louie since I was 9 years old. At 13 I saw him fall in love with DJ-ing, and I was his neighbour and realised I was also in love with him. I would take him soup when he was sick, and I guess I conquered his heart when he found out I could sing. All of the projects we have done together have meant something special, and it’s always been magical, just to be in the room with them, to watch these ‘masters at work’.However there’s one that’s extra special for me.
One night Louie said to me, “India, I have a track that I want you to listen to’ and I said “Louie no more tracks, lol, as I had been laying a lot of vocals and I was tired. I just wanted a rest, I felt sick, I had flu, and he just looked at me and said ‘India please‘, with the little puppy eyes, lol, he said ‘please just go in and sing’, and I couldn’t say no to him, so I went in, put on the headphones and that’s how ‘I Can’t Get No Sleep Was Born’.
DJ Leo “I had a feeling you would say that out of all the tracks, and where did the theme come from? Was it one of those weekends where you didn’t get any sleep?
India “I never got any sleep lol! We were always in the studio creating something, and Louie always seemed to know exactly what sequence he was looking for. I’ve always admired all DJ’s, especially in America, where they are really soulful, and they feel the music. I grew up around Larry Levan and David Morales in the 80’s and all their clubs and parties but I also love Kerri Chandler, Frankie Knuckles - in fact I love all of the early house DJ’s.
When it became international and DJ’s started to fly to London, that was the era that began to really open the eyes of the world to what was happening in the States, and thats when I first started travelling to Europe. All the songs I recorded with MAW always meant something to me - these guys were masters, I wish we could see them work together again, its real sad how they have grown apart.
DJ Leo: I think everyone would love to see you guys work together again
India “We had a great time working together. We made did the Nuyorican Soul album, working with amazing artists like George Benson, Jocelyn Brown, Roy Ayers and of course, the great king of latin music, Tito Puente, the mambo king himself. I also ventured out into latin music, which has been really good for me also and I am known as the Princess of Salsa. My latin music is really soulful but at the same time really jazzy with latin rhythms, and funky - that’s what I am about.
DJ Leo: “For us in the UK, the songs you made don’t have to be reworked or remixed. Why mess with something that’s perfect!”
India: “That’s what I love about London - you’re all so soulful. From the moment I set foot in your country I’m in love with you all. I see so many hands in the air, people feeling the music so much, I say to myself ‘wow, this is my kinda place where I can sing’. It brings me a lot of happiness when I sing, and I don’t need any drugs, my spirit moves me, and in London, it’s like we become one, they feel me”
DJ Leo: “So what have you been up to recently?”
India: “I have been putting together a dance album, which I am working on with DJ Citerella from Italy. I did a lot of gigs in Naples and I heard him play, and we hooked up when I was back in Italy. We are doing a lot of Cuban and afro style jams, and after working with MAW doing rhythms I didn’t get that vibe or feeling for along time, but when I met this guy, I got that vibe back. I love dance music, and soul music, it’s a big influence for me.
DJ Leo “When did you start singing and what was your inspiration? Did it just happen or was it church-based or family based?
India: “Definitely church based, although my family are very musical - they play guitars and bass and my grandmother was a gospel singer, very afro. She was a soprano, and my father’s biological father was a famous Venezuelan singer, just like a frank Sinatra, but he died very young. He was assassinated in Puerto Rico, but he was hugely famous.
My mother is also an amzing singer. She was a soprano, and I also have a sister who is also a soprano. We grew up singing and harmonising, and our neighbours used to knock and ask if they could come and sit and listen,. My grandmother said when I was a baby at 7 months old she would hold me in her arms and I would try to sing then. I had a really high Minnie Ripperton style voice, and it was amazing in the 80’s and 90’s to hear her and Mariah sing those notes because Ive been able sing them ever since I was a little baby. When I was a teenager I just wanted to go out and listen to music and my sister used to help me escape from the house and that’s when I realised I wanted to sing live on stage, not just at home.
I studied opera at school but I always knew I would be a soulful singer as I sang with such emotion. It wasn’t until I met Louie that somebody wanted to help me, and I used to carry his record boxes and give out flyers for him. Eventually he attracted attention and invited me to sing on the mic. People were taking notice and I sang a lot of Aretha classics and Chaka Khan over these rhythms, that’s how it all began.
DJ Leo: “So it was organic/natural for you guys?”
INDIA: “It really was and Kenny Dope Gonzalez came into the picture then and dance music was changing a lot. But there was a need to change, producers were using drum machines and sampling sounds and that’s where I saw Louie and Kenny become masters. I watched them grow and was inspired and I knew something was coming. Louie was playing drum beats like thunder, and it was amazing and innovative. I was in the right place at the right time and people started asking me to remake tracks like ”Love and Happiness”, and I will never feel the same as when we first collaborated on that. I was 19 when I made some of those songs and I never realised then that they would become classics”
DJ Leo: “A lot of people don’t know how big you are in the latin music and can you tell us how you started, about your songs and what you have done in latin music.
INDIA: “I teamed up with Louie and Eddie Palmieri, who was a 7 time Grammy award winner and who also launched the category for Latin Salsa in the Grammys before the Latin Grammys came about. We collaborated on an album, “India Has Arrived”, and it was a really interesting project with Eddie mixing latin, afro and Caribbean flavours with jazz. I was so young, singing in a live band and it was so exciting to work with him. After I worked with Seu Jorge (who at the time was extremely innovative) and he put me up against the likes of Gloria Estefan and I held my own. I didn’t realise how big it became until I had fans wanting to chase me like I was Elvis or The Beatles and I saw people fainting and crying, and I said wow, is this really happening?
Three years ago, the Bronx where I was raised, wanted to name a street after me, and I remember standing outside the Supreme Court Justice and everybody was out on the street and there were kids crying, standing around me as I received this honour. In my speech I said to everybody ‘Never stop believing in yourself’ and that’s the same for everybody else around the world.
All those great singers out there, we should be there for them and I want to be that person to open doors, because when I first started, doors opened for me. I am a very postitive and loving person, and even now in my 40’s, I am very much aware with what’s happening with the new generation and I follow all the trends. I was raised in a beautiful town that loves music, loves artists from London and all around the world, and we’re soulful but very universal, and I am very proud of that. Just recently I have joined forces with a massive Mexican singer, Juan Gabrielle, who’s like the Elton John of Mexico, and he has an amazing voice and a collection of songs. He is fabulous and flamboyant and we are going to be doing an album together, that’s gonna be really hot.”
India headlines Groove Odyssey: House Legends on Saturday February 1st alongside DJ Spen, Neil Pierce, Bobby & Steve Zoo and more at Pacha London. All info at www.grooveodyssey.com or www.facebook.com/GrooveOdyssey