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.