Music Review: India.Arie SongVersation (She say…)

I know all attention is on decoding Jay Z’s 4:44—I’ll get to Mr. Beyonce in the next few days—but right now, my focus is on the intentionality of words and meaning by India.Arie.

“SongVersation: Medicine,” dropped today and I’m here for the healing energy she’s bringing. I receive the songs on this EP as both prayer and meditation. It’s a sipped cup of matcha tea, sitting on a meditation pillow, and cradling a beautiful journal with a pen (or colored pencil) moving across the page in words or doodle.

*This isn’t a review so much, but a reflection after the first coupla listens.*

I was on a panel a few years ago and I was asked the difference between prayer and meditation. My response was simple, prayer is the asking, the question and meditation is the answer. Meditation connects us to our breath and allows us to hear. SongVersation, is both prayer and meditation.

This, the last day of June. Tomorrow is the first day of my bearth (birth) month. Already in cancer season so I’ve been having all the feels and been reflecting on my last 12 months as a whole, and on the last 6 months of 2017. Recurring themes:

  • Expand and manifest
  • Improve my quality of life
  • Stay in the question
  • Writers write…artists art…I am
  • Bloom where I am planted
  • My gifts are making room for me
  • Disrupt/dismantle oppressive spaces
  • Make space & take up space with care and intentionality, do not hoard space
  • Declutter

I was excited upon first listen that Arie’s new cd aligns perfectly with what I’m on.

She used almost the same album cover as SongVersation, letting us know that Medicine is the continuation, the same frequency and energy, vibe of “pink.” Pink is the color of the heart chakra, no coincidence that my rose quartz has been sitting in the sun “charging”—I’ll start wearing it today.

But look again, she added to the cover. The circle, sphere…cipher, with her being at the center. Yaaaaaaas India. I get the symbolism. No hierarchy. We are the circle of life. Okay okay, Lion King, Hakuna Matata. Life ain’t happening to us, we are life itself. Working the metaphor…working the metaphor.


Track 1: I Am Light

We already know this song from the first SongVersation. It’s the “do you know who you are, who you really are moment…” It’s the put yo listening cap on and get the gook out yo 3rd eye, come on in, it’s time to take this conversation to the next level.

I Am Light is not only a reminder of who we are, it’s like the “Adhan,” call to worship in Islam or in the faith tradition I was raised in, the pastor emeritus would say, “I was glad when they said unto me, come let us go into the house of the Lord. There, I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my Lord than to dwell in the tent of wickedness….” Whatever your faith tradition or spiritual journey, I Am Light is the acknowledgment of the sacred time. It’s, the time is here…the time is now… 



Track 2: Soulbird Rise

This is also a callback from SongVersation, it’s a lifeline, a call to arms for sistas to elevate. This song gives us even more permission to fly and reminder of our endurance.

We are all things Black Girl Magic.

Real talk though, my tippy-top thought was, this is the cd to listen to right before Solange (checkout my review of A Seat at the Table) and Tanks and the Bangas, and directly before Lauryn Hill’s MTV UnPlugged, and E. Badu’s Mama’s Gun

She say, “Didn’t cha know/Time to save the world/Where in the world is all the time/So many things I still don’t know/So many times I’ve changed my mind/Guess I was born to make mistakes/But I ain’t scared to take the weight/So when I stumble off the path/I know my heart will guide me back”

And gotta have some of N’dambi in that mix. What N’Dambi say on Ode to Nina?  She say, “I’m not complaining/I’m just tired/Of your comings, your goings, your leavings, your stayings/Yesiree/ Wouldn’t you agree?” That is my shit.

Just like Cherisse Scott say in Sometimes “At night sometimes, I wanna cry. Sometimes I smile instead, just wanna rest my head.”

Come thru sanging sistas. #BuildingThatSummerPlaylist



Track 3: Light of the Holy Spirit

Consecration. The time before the ritual, the ceremony…the sacred, when you just be.

This song is that.

I’ve had a saying for some years now, “repetition is not for the weary.” The repetition in this song is a reminder that even in the midst of discord. The out-of-sortness going on in the world, going on in my city, Chicago, we are still connected to that which is greater than us.

Wait, and there’s Prince’s take on repetition…lol lol lol. “Holding someone is truly believing there’s joy in repetition, there’s joy in repetition…Joy, come on and love me baby, joy in repetition,” Joy in Repetition 

India’s, Light of the Holy Spirit is the salve. And I appreciate the lightness and fluidity of her playing the flute on this track. This song is air meets water.



Track 4: Give Thanks

This track moves us more deeper into the here and now. The present. I ask: Who you be right now, in this very moment? It is from this place/space we must elevate higher.

The signet of this song is selah, às̩e̩, namaste…hallelujah. Soon as I heard selah I was reminded of Lauryn Hill’s song “Selah,” on the “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Soundtrack”

On “Selah,” she say:

Nothing can be done against the truth/No matter how we remain in denial, yeah/Wasting time, replacing time with each empty excuse/But that’ll only work a little while

And the refrain is:

And then He came/Selah, oh and it means/Praise and meditation, and then He came/Selah, oh and it means/Did you think about that, and then He came/Selah, oh and it means/Praise and meditation, and then He came/Selah, oh and it means/That it is seen



Track 5: Just Let it Go

By the time we get to the 5th song on SongVersation: Medicine we are ready to do our “self-work.” She’d been gentle with us up til now, and now she comes with Just Let it Go.

This song is Part 2 of “Get it Together,” from Voyage to India. India is like, let that ish go so you can be free and live yo life.

I have another saying about not living by default, don’t just let ish happen, showUp everyday for yourself and your life. Which, we don’t showUp in the same way everyday, sometimes it’s as simple as having the wherewithal to get out of bed and brush our teeth. I get it. Point is, big or small, showUp for you. India tells us, “your healing is in your hands…” And the closing confirmation is her last line, “Set yourself free.” Get free yahll, get free!



Track 6: Breathe

This song puts us into the current “climate.” This is the: we still going thru Black people, we still being killed, we still out in these streets fighting for our lives and our humanity, BUT the salve and the reminder is the power of our breath. BREATHE.

She performed this song with E. Badu on the 2016 Soul Train Awards. I’d downloaded it and even used it in my therapy groups with my students, but it really didn’t really get in my crevices and resonate until today when I heard it in the context of the rest of the album.

I’m feeling it.

This song reminds me of a lil diddy I wrote for my last stage production, “Stand’n tha Gap,” I wrote, “We are breathin’, we are breathin’ calling out the violence against Black womyn, healing our people and not being silent…” Which, this song, takes us back to the other tracks on the cd, we must breathe through everything. Our breath is our life source. Most importantly, we must breathe without apology cos, like Audre Lorde said in A Litany For Survival,

“It is better to speak


we were never meant to survive”

Our breath is connected to our voice (albeit your voice is verbal, the hands you use to sign visual gestures, your pen, a camera, your body…whateva), we must speak!

This song was for Eric Garner and for all Black lives mattering. I appreciate the song because it doesn’t decenter Black womyn, but broadens the conversation to acknowledge brothas and our connectedness.



Track 7: Chicken Soup in a Song

A play on Chicken Soup for the Soul…in general, chicken soup being medicinal. I was receptive to this song as an offering, a gift of comfort…a reminder of harmony. Finding harmony between self-work, communal work and rest.

Sat yo arse down somewhere and be still.

She say, “not enough hours in a day…we will never get it all done…so I wrote you this chicken soup in a song, may you be cozy and warm wherever you are.”

The sap in me was swelling with eye sweat, but the song ended before a tear fell. Uptempo time.



Track 8: Life is Good

This song is between a praise and worship song and a country song. It reminded me of Carrie Underwood’s, Something in the Water, but Celeste Betton’s cover. Celeste put that stank on it, gave it sistagirl soulfulness.

Life is good is the same the declaration, not question, Can We Live!!!!

India.Arie ended SongVersation: Medicine with a 2:54 injection right to the psyche. A soul-filled dose of Positive Psychology—with everything, and in spite of everything LIFE IS GOOD! This was her drop the mic moment….


In bloom,

nicole jhan’rea

#SheBloomsBlack #IndiaArie  #SongVersationMedicine

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