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Album Showcase: Iya Terra – “Ease & Grace”

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted and article written in January 2022 but Rootfire decided to publish it in celebration of the one year anniversary of the release of Ease & Grace.

According to Spotify, my primary streaming platform of choice, my most listened-to artist of 2021 was Iya Terra, due mainly to last summer’s release, Ease & Grace, which naturally followed suit as my most streamed album of the year. Now with four studio albums under their belt, Iya Terra has ranked among my favorite modern reggae artists since they surfaced a little under a decade ago. They have consistently delivered modern roots reggae augmented by the heavy metal-inspired guitar riffs that have come to give them their signature sound.

Lyrically, Ease & Grace, not unlike their previous output, embodies all of the themes that made me fall in love with reggae music as a teenager: spirituality, social consciousness, unity and rebellion. Rich with meaning, the album presents 15 provocative songs to awake, inspire and soothe listeners.

Among them, the album’s second track, “Your Wars,” stands out as a brazen protest song that calls out the U.S. government for a foreign policy that perpetuates terrorism, as well as politicians for their evil, greedy, hypocritical ways. The tune kept coming to mind when I viewed a recent NY Times visual investigation that detailed how a U.S. drone strike targeting a suspected terrorist in Afghanistan killed the wrong person, murdering a bunch of innocent children in the process.

The song concurrently celebrates the power of the people and the might of unity and collective action. It includes the chill-inducing line, “When praise go up, Babylon come down,” while also giving a nod to Bob Marley and the Wailers’ most popular protest song, “Get Up, Stand Up,” with the lyric, “You can fool some of the people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

The ones who govern us can’t govern themselves

So wrapped up in their material wealth

I think it’s time to take a good hard look

Decipher who determines all the laws in the book

Powerful politicians always getting off the hook

No longer are we shaking we’re the ones getting shook

Another favorite of mine, “Mind Control,” is a wicked track with profound sentiments. It speaks to how we are conditioned from birth to yearn for material wealth in a capitalistic society, while the powers that be strive to divide the people and marginalize large portions of our populace. It also delivers a recurring message of the album, encouraging mindfulness while denouncing both social and mainstream media for spreading misinformation and/or creating panic.

So if you’re just waking up now inside the maze

The shackles we wear are not physical chains

The lies they have fed you have led to restrain

The progressive thinking that inspires change

Don’t wanna live up in a world like that

And I believe we have a need to take the power back

Got to separate the fear from fact

And be mindful of react

Pivoting from the anthems with hard-hitting, socially conscious messaging, Ease & Grace displays some diversity with a rare ballad, titled “Future.” This keyboard-driven song offers hope to people that have had the contentious times we are living in tarnish or ruin relationships, which can lead to a feeling of disillusionment and loneliness.

Open up the map and navigate to higher ground

Holding back reaction when the madness comes around

Some will speak with rage and try to make the loudest sound

Solace in your heart provide the silence so profound

It’s lyrics, “Try to find the place where you belong” and “Lose yourself to know where you’re meant to go from here” provide encouragement to the listener that uncertain/unstable times will ultimately yield to clarity, balance and/or security.

The album concludes with another banger, “Take Control,” which warns people against getting misled by fake friends, false prophets and misinformation, as we often find ourselves snared by the evil algorithms of social media that inevitably entangle us in contrarian debates and foster anger and hostility toward each other.

Be careful with the company you keep

Because not everyone is who they claim to be

They trip you up with twisted tongue and double speak

To interrupt and to corrupt your energy

Never let them steal your smile

Can’t let them taint your soul

Don’t let them fill your heart with hate

And take control

Cleary, Ease & Grace has a lot to unpack.  This influential work of heart warrants attention and examination, so Rootfire connected with Iya Terra for an in-depth conversation. From one coast to the other, writer Dave Shiffman reasons with bandleader Nate Feinstein over Zoom, discussing the themes and messaging of the album, how songs came to fruition and the joy of cats.

You can view the interview on Rootfire TV, linked above.

Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.

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