Friday, March 11, 2011

Nneka: The Neo-Soul Philosopher

Photo Credit: Nnekaworld
Few artistes garner the kind of attention and interest like Nneka Lucia Egbuna does. Nneka as she is called by her fans, is captivating to witness in concert. She may not be a household name in the States just yet, but she's carved out a nice following abroad and every time she releases a record, critics go crazy with praise. Nneka also follows in the footsteps of very notable female singers such as Laura Izibor and Sade from her native country of Nigeria.

This half -Nigerian/German was born and raised in Warri, in the Delta region of Nigeria. It’s worth pointing out that this region of Nigeria where Nneka grew up is home to vast oil reserves, but with a troubled history of violence. She has seen all this with her own eyes as a child and teenager and now expresses it through her art. Her voice is amazing--it's strong and beautiful. She is mesmerizing to listen to and she makes you really care what happens. An uncompromising perfectionist, she worked hard to develop a personal, pensive sound, somewhat reminiscent of Erykah Badu and Neneh Cherry.

Since her first album which made waves in the music arena in 2005, she’s been on a raging hit sequence. An archeologist by study and singer by heart! Her style of music and the way its’ fusion mixed is just amazing. This lady with a unique charismatic voice counts Life, Kahlil Gibran, Bob Marley and Fela Kuti as some of her influences. Her music and lyrics are totally different from usual music makers. She has her own inimitable style which has made a mark in the music world. I am an ardent fan of Nneka. Her first song which I heard was ‘Kange’ feat. Wesley Williams, which was my favorite then. ‘Africans’ is my favorite now! The lyrical content of some of Nneka’s songs have focused on the plight of her native Delta people such as the aptly titled 'No Longer at Ease' album released in 2008, which pays homage to a novel by the much-revered Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. The trajectory of Ms. Nneka’s musical career has been both steep and upward. In the last 5 years, she has opened up for some of the biggest acts such as Lenny Kravitz, The Roots and Gnarls Barkley, during which time she’s released 2 full length albums and 3 compilation CDs.She was awarded the Best African Act at the 2009 MOBO Awards. In 2010, Nneka recorded a song for the just-ended FIFA World Cup in South Africa called "Viva Africa”. Key in all this has been her tireless drive as a performer and graciousness to all, with no airs to speak of. She has a distinctive style and ability to engage her audiences.

All her songs present a great mix of R&B, reggae, jazz, soul  and hip-hop with the latest style which makes them soothing to the ears. Her videos are very different and make you watch them again and again. Her latest album “Concrete Jungle” is just awesome. And she looks amazing in the video. I recently bought her latest album “Concrete Jungle”. Get yours!

       We consider ourselves very privileged to have been given the opportunity to share with you a very insightful and candid interview with a lady who is as humble and down to earth as her sound which is out of this world! We hope you enjoy it as much as we had.

Could you explain the pronunciation of your name? My name means mother is supreme. Nneka sounds like (hm neck car).

Tell us a bit about your story and how you got into music. Who is your biggest inspiration?

I got into music at a very early age, I was felt devoted to music, the fact is that no one in my family had anything to do with music...well I would sing to myself while doing my domestic work at home and sometimes I sang in school or ended up singing at festivities in church, but it was never professional until I traveled out of Nigeria ,when I went to Germany, I ended up understanding I really had a passion for music and it helped me through many difficult times and situations..I began doing music as a hobby and something I just loved and eventually performed on small stages and with friends. It was at this stage I met people like the Chosen Few Records Group and eventually became a member. I also met DJ Farhot with whom I ended up working with and doing three albums.

How long have you been performing? Well I got my record deal in 2003, professionally I have been touring since then, but before that I performed in small places with my group and also with a band called funknastico at that time.

Where are you originally from? I am from Nigeria, born and raised. My father is from Anambra state in the south of Nigeria and my biological mother is a German.

Are you close to your family? How old were you when your parents split?
Well I am in good terms with my father. I never knew my mother until I was 17

How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t heard your music before?
It is authentic, real and simple, sometimes complicated but within the complexity there is sincerity and simplicity.

Do you write your own lyrics? How do you approach the songwriting process?
Yes I write my own lyrics that makes me to who I am as a musician, without expressing myself through my own lyrics I would not have an outlet. Well songwriting happens in different ways, sometimes I start with the words, other times with the melody and eventually I find the words and sometimes I hear a beat and become inspired...or sometimes I just don’t have anything to say.

When did you first know you wanted to be a professional musician? Never did(laughs).

What would you have done if you hadn't become a singer? I have a degree in anthropology and archaeology. I finished my studies, I could do something with my studies or go back and study biology.

Photo Credit: Nnekaworld
Your latest album “Concrete Jungle” was released in February 2010. What has been the public’s response thus far to the album and do you have anything new in the works?
Well it’s been good response I must, say we have toured almost three years with those songs, and we have gained great acknowledgement and publicity in Europe, and Africa...we approached the states with concrete jungle only last year, but we have been touring in the states as well over two years now..It has been a success and really hard work.

You released “I’m waiting” featuring fellow Nigerian Ade Bantu, the soundtrack for the movie ‘Relentless’ in which you made your acting debut. What’s the message behind that song and do you plan to pursue movie roles full-time?
Well the song is about suspense, the continuous and never ending story of change and redemption, we not knowing where we are heading to and what precisely we are doing’s about pain and freedom.

Is there any cause that you’d like to promote? Yes, sure, I have a foundation called the ROPE foundation where we give children and young adults the opportunity to express themselves by tools of music, art. We are a fresh foundation and we raise awareness on issues that concern the community and their leaders...issues of ecology, oil, exploitation or injustice of any kind, even elections...

On a more serious note, you are unapologetically proud of your Nigerian/African roots. What's your take on the current state of African politics and its’ battered image in the western media?
Well, we have so many things to say...I moved back to Nigeria to be part of the system I myself was criticizing...fact is some things change and some things do not..All I can do is be part of positive change, that is why I focus on the youth because they are the, knowledge, love is what they need.

What travel tips or suggestions do you have for people contemplating visiting Nigeria and other parts of Africa?
Be open, not all of Africa is just negative, corrupt and full of AIDS and HIV. It might be part of reality, but there is more than that...culture, tradition, good people and talent.

What kind of music do you listen to? Soul, afro beat, highlife, hip hop etc

What about you is most misunderstood? My intentions.

Last year, you toured with Nas and Damian Marley to help promote their 'Distant Relatives' album. What were your observations of that tour and working experiences with both gentlemen?
Well cool people, I learnt a lot from both, you need stamina and focus for this work. It is not just music it is a movement..exodus... You always have to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.

What do you want to be remembered for when it’s all said and done?
Ha ha....I pray I fulfill the expectations of my creator...

Thank you for providing us the opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts and advice you wish to share with us?
Pursue all your great ideas!!

Thanks for your support and love!

Have a listen to Nneka’s music at and also follow her on Twitter @Nnekaworld.

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1 comment:

  1. luv her and her style of music am a nigerian and very pround of her.