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India.Arie’s soulful touch

Since arriving on the scene eight years ago, singer- songwriter has formed a unique bond with her listeners with powerful, emotional lyrics

India.Arie arrived on the music scene in 2001 and proceeded to – and this is hardly an exaggeration – become an important part of many people’s lives.

Take, for instance, Robin Roberts, the “Good Morning America” co-anchor. Roberts credits this Colorado-bred singer-songwriter’s music with getting her through some of the most difficult moments in her life.

Oprah Winfrey once said that her music “stimulates and revives the soul.”

If you could pick one word to describe the feeling fans have for India.Arie, it would be gratitude. Few artists have forged such a close emotional bond with their listeners.

Arie writes intimate, emotionally open songs about what it means to be a woman, to be in love, to be in pain and to be a citizen of the world.

On one hand, she connects with deep feelings about self-image (and on another level, breast cancer) in this chorus from “I Am Not My Hair,” from “Testimony: Vol. 1. Life and Relationship”:

“I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am not your expectations, no, no / … I am a soul that lives within.”

On the other hand, she also offers up some wisdom about how to make the world a better place, as in this lyric from “Better People”: “Young people, who talk to old people, it would make us better people, all around.”

And she does it with exceptional quality. Arie has a voice that critics have compared to Roberta Flack for sheer beauty, and Aretha Franklin for sheer soul.

She is also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. On stage at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, you’ll see her play her main instrument, guitar, but you might also see her play the flute.

Arie has been nominated for 17 Grammys and won a couple, including Best R&B Album. She made her musical influences clear in the first words of her first album, 2001’s “Acoustic Soul”: “This is in remembrance of our ancestors / Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway.”

Lately, she has collaborated with such diverse performers as Keb Mo, M.C. Lyte, Gramps Morgan, Akon, John Cougar Mellencamp and Musiq Soulchild. Influences from Turkey, the Ivory Coast and South Africa are evident in her music.

“I always looked at myself as a world music artist – even when I was playing coffeehouses in college,” Arie was once quoted as saying. “I was always unsatisfied to be filed under urban, only.”

She was born India Arie Simpson, the daughter of NBA basketball player Ralph Simpson. Her mother, Joyce, sang with Motown and now is her daughter’s stylist and costume designer.

Arie has served as U.S. ambassador to UNICEF and has traveled to Africa several times for anti-AIDS campaigns.

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