Latino Spotlight

India Loves the Nightlife
The Princess of Salsa talks about her music and her love for the QV community.
Interview by Howard Perez

IndiaThere is no doubt in any person's mind that India is the Princess of Salsa and of underground dance music. She has captured the hearts of her millions of fans around the world with her powerful lyrics and sensuous Salsa rhythms. Her collaborations with top artists and producers in the music industry have granted her the success she well deserves in both the Spanish and English music industries. India has an amazing ability to transform any project that she undertakes into a musical sensation and a hit. Currently, she has a successful Salsa album, "Sobre El Fuego" (Through The Fire), and a new disco single, "I Love The Nightlife."

How long have you been in the music business now? A good fifteen years.

With so many singers that come and go so quickly in the music business, how would you attribute your longevity as an icon? What's kept India up there year after year? Well, I think it's because I've really never had a record company behind me. I've always had to do everything on my own to stay alive, and make sure that certain kinds of audiences-such as club goers and lovers of dance and tropical music-were constantly used to hearing me, even if it was a 12-inch or a mix from Masters at Work.

You know, the whole thing is the love, the hunger, and the desire to keep going for the music. Even when I did not know that I had a talent and that people liked my singing voice, I always appreciated music. I just give my all in everything I do. I (also) make sure that I don't think about myself-I think about the public and what they would like, what would be nice for them, and what would be inspiring for them.

What kind of music inspired you?
I grew up around tropical music: a lot of rhythm, a lot of Mambo, Rumba, Salsa, Montuño, and Cha Cha. I was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and I was brought as an infant to New York City, where I grew up. I listened to rock-n-roll and also disco music. When I was growing up, disco was hot-I thought it was the best movement ever. That is where my love and my interest for dance music came. Hearing singers like Donna Summer and Gloria QVnor-all the best R&B dance artists-blew me away. I've always loved it.

I (also) love the "live" feel-the feeling of the rhythm with real players and real musicians-because they give a funkiness to the music. "Little" Louie Vega (of Masters At Work), introduced me to the music business and we've been working (together) for years. He's kept me alive in dance music-he and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez. They know that in my tropical music, I work with live musicians and I have a seven piece band, so they also try to give a "live" feel to my music. When we did "Love and Happiness" five years ago, we used Tito Puente to play the timbales-he gave it an incredible sound. Then we had tribal samples-it was like going to the jungle!

You seem to love doing all kinds of different genres of music. Which do you prefer, dance, salsa, R&B, jazz?
You know what, I don't know if this is selfish of me to say, but I want it all-they are all so delicious! Every one of them is so incredible to listen to, to party to, and to dance to.

You do a lot of dance music. Do you ever have a chance to go out and dance?
Not as much as I used to, and I'm really saddened by it because I really love to party. I really like to go out, let my hair down, have a cocktail, and just dance, dance, dance! When I was married to "Little" Louie Vega, I used to always be there (at the clubs). Imagine, I started out carrying his crates! Because of him, I have a certain intense and open relationship with deejays. I appreciate them because they've kept me on the dance floor for so many hours and so many years. Lately, I haven't had the opportunity to go out because I'm traveling all the time. But I have my own parties in my room with the radio, you know.

How do you feel when people call you the Princess of Salsa?
I love it, I really do! I think that my way of thinking has always been (in my imagination and spirituality) I do feel like a princess. I work hard for what I do, and I feel that I've earned it. I really feel that it fits me well. I love it!

You and Nuyorican Soul seem to have a perfect chemistry with music. Can you tell us about that relationship and how you guys get together to produce hits?
Well, the concept (Nuyorican Soul) has been around for about ten years. Louie and Kenny had a great concept (for the first album) and they brought in people like Jocelyn Brown, Hilton Louis (a Latin jazz player), Dave Valentin, famous Nuyorican flute players, and Tito Puente. Luis Quintero, was the musical director of the Nuyorican Soul band. We used a lot of musicians that freelanced in different kinds of fields to give us what we were looking for. I really did not get a chance to work with the guys because I was going through a divorce with Louie. It was so hard and it was so sad to record "Runaway." It was the first time I had to record a song without him being there. After the divorce we remained friends, thank God, because of the appreciation that we have for each other and because we believe in the music.

How will the next Nuyorican Soul album be different from the first one?
We have a lot of talented musicians that are going to be taking the spotlight and forefronting the vocalist position. I want to do more than one song on the next album-they already know that. I want to do funk, dance, cross-over, and ballads-funky ballads. I want a lot of top selling rap artists to be featured in this. I'm look forward to next Nuyorican Soul album, that's all I can say.

Your current single is a remake of the disco classic, "I Love The Nightlife." How did that track come about?
"Little" Louie Vega was doing something for the soundtrack of the movie, "The Last Days Of Disco." He gave me a call and asked me to do the lead, and I said I'd love to do it. They went into the studio and gave it a new sound of today. In terms of the rhythm, it was like a whole new movement and I liked it a lot-it was very danceable. We went and recorded it, and had a lot of fun with it.

We've been getting a very good response in Los Angeles. (Radio station) Groove 103.1 has been pumping it up and a lot of the clubs across the country have been pumping it up, too. On radio, most of the songs don't get a chance to get on there, but in LA, I have such a big market in terms of dance, that they love me and they always play everything I record. Thank God for Groove, who takes the opportunity to appreciate the dance-club market.

What have been some of the favorite collaborations/duets you've been involved with?
My favorite to me, in my heart, would probably be Celia Cruz.

What is one of your own personal favorite recordings of your music?
One of my favorites is "Love and Happiness."

What about your Salsa songs? Those are some powerful lyrics.
I would have to say "Mi Mayor Venganza" (from the "Sobre El Fuego" album) is one of my favorites. I think it is one of the strongest and most intense songs that I've ever done in my entire life (because of) the soul, the attitude, and the strength of what it is saying. I put everything in it-there was nothing left in my soul because I splattered it all over the song. I sang it with a lot of conviction, a lot of heart, anger, strength, and just everything.

Do you feel that with your music and your lyrics, you relieve yourself?
What brings me great pleasure and relief is when I go in, take the song, and study it. Once the lyrics are in front of me, I study the message of the song and I take it to the first gear, then the second, and then I bring it home. My main goal is to interpret 100% of the beginning, the middle and the end of the song. When that happens, it is incredible and there is nothing that can compare to that feeling-well, maybe love (laughs).

Sobre El FuegoYour current album is called "Sobre El Fuego." When you work on an album, what do you set out to accomplish? I make sure that I'm comfortable with what I'm trying to establish within my heart, my mind, my soul, and everyone else's. I don't only think about myself; I think about other people. I think about what is happening around me. I get inspired by a lot of things-like friends that might be going through something intense. That kind of stuff gives me inspiration to start writing.

If I can't write because I'm too busy trying to put things together, I team up with the best writers. I'm not a selfish artist. I believe that you have to give the opportunity to other talented songwriters, put your heart into (their songs) and turn them into hits. I think very differently from a lot of other artists out there. I believe that most of them (other artists) want to be known as the songwriter, producer, and everything. But, I think there are a lot of (other) people out there who deserve a job, as long as they do it with quality. It just makes the project 100 times better because it feels like you are in good Karma.

I also like to get opinions of my music. I like to have friends tell me what they like and what they don't like. It always turns out that somebody is very touched by it. Women are especially more responsive towards my Latin music because they really feel for what I'm saying. Somehow, they can really relate to the lyrics that I put (in my music).

Are you involved in any special projects or causes like AIDS awareness or things like that?
You know, it's hard. I don't have time. I support anything that has to do with AIDS, but I just don't have time because I'm always touring so much. At the moment, my cousin, Debbie Delgado, who heads an organization called LOLA (Latin Organization for Living Awareness), is fighting for her life. She had to wait two years for a liver transplant. Thank God she formed this organization because she is saving lives. So whenever she wants me to do something or be somewhere, if I'm in town, I always go just to hear her speak and to help people who are in need. That place makes me feel good. I'm just a person who cares a lot about what happens to people. I'm also an animal lover; I love dogs, cats, birds, you name them, I love them.

qvMagazine is a publication geared towards Latinos. You are considered an idol by many of those Latinos. How does it feel to have such a strong QV audience, in addition, to your straight audience?
I feel happy because all my life I have been surrounded by a lot of QV men. They like me-they just consider me an ordinary "fish." They let me in and make me feel comfortable, and I make them feel comfortable. You know, we have established many long years of a relationship, and everything I am today-everything that I represent as an artist-I owe it to the QV community. They have kept me alive when (other) people have turned their backs on me. To keep me working, they call me and say they want me to come on down to sing "the classics." What can I say? They come out to see me, to have a good time, and to party and scream! I love them!! They know that it's a give and take-I give and they receive, and then they give and I receive. It's been like that for many years.

Have you ever performed at a QV club and what was your experience?
Oh yeah, definitely. When they call me, I always try to go out there. I've done Crash (NY), Spectrum (NY), and many other clubs in New York, San Francisco, and Miami. When Water Front (Miami) used to be open, I performed there. It's amazing because it's different from the heterosexual crowd. With a QV club, you can really let your hair down. I mean, you can say things that you can't say in other places because they'd throw you out! It's like freedom of speech-just say it!

What's next on India's schedule?
There is a lot of touring right now. I have a big tour in South America that I will be doing, and I'm very excited about that. We are going to Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, and I'm (especially) looking forward to going to the islands like Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic. I've always wanted to go there and let them know that I know they support my music. I love them and I want to give them something back. I'll also be in Madison Square Garden-I've got a big concert there in September.

I also have a new single coming out-the Juan Gabriel song ("Costumbres"). Everybody loves it! Everybody loves my interpretation and the style that I incorporated into the song, because I took it to another level. It's normally a ballad and not done in Salsa. I added little things here and there, a lot of soulful things, to give it an R&B style. We just filmed the video, which I directed. That was something very interesting and exciting to do. I am very thrilled.

This issue of qvMagazine is focused on "Knowledge" and education. What would you like to say about education to your fans?
I believe that no matter what obstacles you might have, where ever you live, education is very important. You have to educate yourself if you want to make it and if you want to be looked upon as someone responsible. You will have more opportunities to get a job and a career out of it. I would advise kids to stay in school. No matter what obstacles get in the way, try to finish.

Any last comments or words that you would like to say to your fans?
I just want to thank them for always sticking around. I have a lot of fans that know what's up and who follow me, write letters, and come and see me when they know I'm around. They support my music and everything, and I just want to thank them. I look forward to meeting with them and being around where they live. I hope to see them at a nightclub, and party, and show them a good time.


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