Words by Kemila Velan
Puerto Rico, a mecca of salsa and merengue, has given birth to a fresh, multilingual world jazz vocalist who moves to her own beat.
“I never fit into anyone’s mold of who I should be, so I had to go and carve my own path,” says Inaia, whose early travels to Europe and mainland USA with her family sharpened her aural sense for music and language.
At four years old, she added English to her native Spanish tongue; at eight she sang in the church choir; at Baltimore’s Goucher College she learned to add dance to the melodies echoing in her head. Today, Inaia is a “conscious” songstress inspired by yoga, meditation and a whole food diet.
That means no dairy, no soy, no potatoes. “They mess with my voice,” she says, while raw foods like asparagus, avocado, broccoli, salads, and vegan dishes like split pea soups, curry vegetables and brown rice “help me be the best Inaia I can be, which is the best singer I can be.”
Her food Bible is “The Raw Food Detox Diet,” and she finds that eating small, healthy snacks all day long, rather than sitting down for three big meals a day is the way to keep up with her hectic schedule.
“Not taking care of yourself makes you disconnected from yourself,” says Inaia, adding that the key to being a strong woman is not about a beautiful face and rock-hard body. Having dedication to personal growth and one’s craft are the roots of living truthfully for Inaia, and that is how she empowers herself while inspiring others.
She awakens and falls asleep to audio meditations by Dr. Doreen Virtue – creator of Angel Therapy – and others downloaded to her iPod, and she dedicates at least 90 minutes a day to Bikram yoga, or Capoeira for variety.
“Bikram centers me so much and gives me power for my voice. It clears my respiratory system.”
The result is a breathy, sensual, newly cut CD she calls Duality, produced by Orly Penate of Miami Beach. She says she likes to breathe deep and take it in because that’s where she feels centered. “In that peacefulness…that’s where I feel like myself.”
She has calm energy rather than scattered and loud. Anyone who knows her understands that if Inaia is talking a lot and too fast, that means “I’m not in a good space!”
But it’s all good on Inaia’s Myspace profile, where friends, fans, fellow singers and unexpected visitors leave sweet nothing messages. Gia says, “love when it rains and the sun shines after. I envision this when I hear your music…”
Wrinksis, a reviewer on MusicFreedom.com, also connected to the energy that exudes from Inaia’s music. “Duality is full of gems, both old and new. The album’s biggest highlight may very well be the reflective True in which Inaia finds herself ‘revealing a soul that’s always been stronger’ and urging the listener to seek his own freedom.”
When Inaia isn’t traveling, she is based in Miami Beach where she has performed at the Hard Rock Cafe, Nikki Beach Club, Mangos, Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Satine at the Westin Diplomat, Opium Garden, Crobar, Level, Sax On The Beach, Porterhouse, Sea Escape, Sea Kruz and Gadyva, among others.
Working in a city that is better known for club music than smooth, live jazz keeps Inaia on a yogic path.
“One thing I’ve really learned to live by is allowance,” Inaia nods as she takes a bite of avocado salad at the Honeytree on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. She pauses, then adds, “Whenever I try to force things or people to do or be something – that includes myself – I’m just getting in my own way. With allowance, there is natural brilliance and uniqueness and amazingness that pours out.”