iNDRANi Part 1: Music Goddess
Barbadian singer/songwriter/dancer iNDRANi pours her soul into her arts and her work for recording artist Mr. Vegas.
iNDRANi Santiago, best known as iNDRANi, is a goddess in her own right. Named after the ultimate God in the Hindu spiritual system, “Indrani” is the masculine shadow of “Indra”, and traditionally represents power, thunder and droplets of rain.
iNDRANi's mission is to live, to be, to love.
Yet our own iNDRANi is also a triple threat: a dancer, writer and singer that has become virtually unstoppable in the Caribbean entertainment industry, giving vocal instruction to world class artists such as Bajan-Brit Livvi Franc, mashin’ up de soca stage with Machel Montano HD and writing hit songs for Jamaican superstars like Mr. Vegas.
Kurama Magazine had the pleasure of catching up with iNDRANi to hear firsthand what it’s like vibing with Vegas.
Kurama Magazine: So how did a Barbadian artist end up writing with Jamaican superstar Mr. Vegas?
iNDRANi Santiago: He performed with Machel’s HD band, when I was a member, and during our first studio session in Jamaica, he came out into the lobby where I was playing guitar and singing, and asked whose song it was. I told him it was one of mine and he was interested in hearing how I’d approach writing for him. That was the beginning of a journey that’s 3 or 4 years deep so far.
KM: What’s the songwriting process like when you’re working with Vegas?
IS: Sometimes, we’re in the same space and it’s endless hours of vibing and writing, which is great. Other times, I’m in Barbados or traveling and he’ll send riddims for me to write on… If I’m in Jamaica, I’ll be in a writing cocoon, cordoned off with riddims, my studio gear, journal, a pen and phone nearby. If, by the time he returns to base, he likes what he hears, he books a session and we head to a studio to record.
KM: Do your ideas clash or do they always complement?
IS: He’s very particular, not about what he likes, but about what he thinks or knows will work. Some ideas, he likes. Some, he doesn’t. If he responds with “Mad!” or “It shot!” - it’s good and he’ll record it, sometimes it’s “Nooooooo...” and in many instances, we’ll dissect the song and reconstruct it.
KM: Any hits so far?
IS: The flagship song thus far is ‘Sweet Jamaica’, by Mr. Vegas, Shaggy, and Josey Wales, which went to #1 on the German reggae charts, #1 MTV Africa, #1 BBC1 Xtra, and #5 on the U.K. reggae charts, with the music video at #1 on Video Alley. Co-wrote ‘He’s Alive & Well’ [by] Mr. Vegas & Luciano, “Magical,” (featuring Nadine Sutherland) - eight songs in total on the ‘Sweet Jamaica’ double album (seven on the reggae side, one on the dancehall side) and others which haven’t been released as yet.
KM: You were recently in Jamaica for the launch party for that album. What’s it like to party with Vegas and the Jamaican crew?
IS: It was a great event; the vibe was really good, crowd receptive to the songs, and reviews positive. Vegas and his band were in fine form. Mikie Bennett, (Rory Stone Love), Luciano, Nadine Sutherland, Barrington were all present and added to the magic of the night. Watching the songs come to life was the highlight for me; that, and playing pool with Luciano.
KM: What are your favourite things to do in Jamaica?
IS: Spend days at Grafton Studio with Mikie Bennett, a wonderful human being. “Roadside Limes” with one of my closest friends, Oyadele, where we just walk or stop any and everywhere to talk about life and nature. Make memories with one of my godchildren, Sade. Collect stones on the beach in Bull Bay. Sit down in Bob Marley’s yard on Hope Road.
(Left) iNDRANi at the Bob Marley museum in Jamaica and (right) vibing in the studio with Mr. Vegas.
KM: What are some of your favourite pieces that you have written?
IS: The most personal thus far is “Love Me,” the most honest “Stronger,” the most pivotal “Sweet Jamaica”, the most kick-ass “Fyah Wata”, and there are some special gems – written with Simon Pipe and MiNiM.
KM: “Mission” and “Stronger” are two songs that seem to resonate well with fans. Where did they come from?
IS: “Stronger” was a conversation with The Most Divine and an official S.O.S.
“Mission”- “Politicians shaking hands with priests; collateral damage - because of their greed. So much money anna poverty; keep de people inna slavery. War and famine; could get rid of them, but no conscience inna none o’ dem” - Lyrics from “Mission” which was written the night before I turned on the TV and saw the news about the London riots in 2011. It occurred to me that some have a surplus of apparent resources and riches (enough to waste), while many have a need for the same. It’s just a matter of care, sharing, intention, and a pure and honest desire (or not) to follow in the footsteps of whichever prophets or God once claim to wish to embody and serve.
KM: What’s your mission in life?
IS: To live...to be...to love...
Stay tuned for part 2, as we get up close and personal with iNDRANi Santiago, to find out what lessons she learned in 2011 and why she represents a collage of nations.