La India is a noted Grammy Award- and Latin Grammy Award-nominated singer of salsa also known as the Princess of Salsa.
Caballero (birth name: Linda Viera Caballero) was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Her parents decided to move to New York City soon after her birth, and upon their arrival, they settled down in the South Bronx area of the city. They moved in with Caballero’s grandmother, a strong-willed lady who is considered to have served as an important influence on Caballero’s life. During her grade school years Caballero met and became friends with Louie Vega, who introduced her to the urban street music scene where she learned to appreciate the hip-hop styles of the day.
Linda Caballero became known as India (based on her Indian Taino roots) among her friends because of her fine dark features and long straight black hair. In 1985, when Caballero was 14 years old, she became a backup singer for the Latin freestyle group TKA and was featured on the cover of TKA’s second single “Come Get My Love.” However she left shortly thereafter.
Under the tutelage of John “Jellybean” Benitez, a Puerto Rican DJ credited for discovering Madonna, Caballero re-recorded Jellybean’s “Dancing on the Fire,” making it an even bigger club hit than the original. She also contributed vocals on Jellybean’s club hit “Mirage.” When Caballero wasn’t singing, she earned money as a part-time model.
Caballero signed a record contract with Reprise Records, which planned on making her the Latin version of Madonna. After recording the album Breaking Night, Caballero decided that she didn’t want to take that route in her career.
In 1990, at age 19, Caballero married Louie Vega. Although the marriage lasted for only a few years, they continued to maintain a professional relationship.
After Louie Vega teamed up with DJ/producer Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez and formed Masters at Work, the duo collaborated with India and produced the classic house anthem “I Can’t Get No Sleep” followed by the less successful “When You Touch Me.” Both songs were featured on the self-titled 1993 Masters At Work album on Cutting Records.
India remains a well-respected name in the house-music scene, but is more dominant in salsa music.
An important event took place when she accompanied her husband to a studio recording. Salsa band leader Eddie Palmieri happened to visit the studio and was impressed with Caballero when he heard her singing. In 1992, Palmieri produced Caballero’s first Spanish-language salsa album Llego la India via Eddie Palmieri (The India has Arrived via Eddie Palmieri), which was acclaimed as one of the best salsa albums of the year. From then on Caballero became known to all as La India.
In 1994, La India together with Vega recorded a house-music single “Love and Happiness” (Yemaya y Ochún) that paid tribute to Santeria (a syncretic religion based in the Caribbean). This up-beat house track was played heavily in dance club’s internationally. La India’s involvement with Santeria drew much criticism. She later recorded Dicen Que Soy (They Say that I Am) which was a 2x gold-certified Billboard hit. That same year India released the song “Vivir Lo Nuestro,” a duet with Marc Anthony, which appeared on the album Combinación Perfecta.
In 1996, La India worked with Tito Puente on Jazzin, an English-language album of swing classics with a Latin twist on RMM Records. That same year she contributed the song “Banderas” to the album entitled Voces Unidas (United Voices), a multi-artist tribute to the 1996 Summer Olympics. She also released India: Mega Mix that same year before divorcing Vega. La India sang a duet titled “La Voz de la Experiencia” (The Voice of Experience) with Celia Cruz, the late Queen of Salsa. It was then that Cruz gave Caballero her longer name: La India the Princess of Salsa.
In 1997, La India recorded “Sobre el Fuego” (Over the Fire) with Puerto Rican salsa singer Kevin Ceballo as backup. The song was nominated for Best Latin Tropical Performance Grammy Award. In 1998, she won an ACE Award.
On May 31, 1998 La India gave two sold-out concerts at the Luis A. Ferre Performing Arts Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She returned to the United States and Cable Channel UPN aired one of her shows. La India also held concerts in New York’s Madison Square Garden and in El Festival de la Calle Ocho in Miami, Florida.
In September 1999, La India released her album Sola, which earned her great reviews for the single “Sola” and for covers of two hits by the late Cuban sensation La Lupe “Que Te Pedi” and “Si Vuelves Tu.”
On February 5, 2000, a full-page ad in Billboard Magazine congratulated La India for her second Grammy Award nomination. In March 2000, she was featured in Vibe Magazine.
In 2003, La India released Latin Songbird: Mi Alma y Corazón. The album’s lead single “Sedúceme” became a hit on the Latin charts and topped the U.S. Billboard Hot Latin Tracks for several weeks. This romantic salsa hit single was La India’s first number-one song. The song brought her a new fan base with many awards and nominations, including two Latin Grammy nominations for Best Salsa Album and Best Tropical Song in 2003, and her third Grammy Award nomination for Best Salsa Album in 2004.
In 2005, La India participated in the musical presentation Selena Vive, a tribute to the late Tejano sensation Selena Quintanilla-Perez.
In 2006, La India released the album Soy Diferente, which contained two songs that became award-winning hits. The 2007 Annual Latin Billboard Awards honored India with Best Tropical Album of the Year Female for “Soy Diferente” (I Am Different), and Latin Dance Club Play Track of the Year for “Solamente Una Noche” (Just For One Night). In 2007, India collaborated with Latin sensation Gloria Estefan in a duet titled “90 Millas.”
India is set to release her ninth studio album in 2009, which will propel her music to various European and Asian countries. India mentioned to the Associated Press, “I am reinventing myself…changing my physical image. India will return to become a Barbie. But more than that, I feel like a new woman because I have been been blessed with many beautiful things. After many years, I have my family with me and I am not separated from my mother, in which I suffered greatly. I have her in my life and that brings inner peace that I haven’t had in a long time.”