A product of the conventional music business model, I have not always explored beyond what the ‘system’ pushes out. I am not proud of that and I have attempted to make up for it by submerging myself in the crevices of the Internet, where so much beautiful music resides. I visit music blogs & sites and interact with those in the know in spaces like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. These recent forays have unearthed – for me – some amazing gems, one of which Nigerian-German artist Nneka.
I regrettably haven’t had the opportunity to hear her debut EP, The Uncomfortable Truth, or her album Victim of Truth but, from the first listen, her current album No Longer At Ease stays on high rotation, months after I first heard it. Her first single Heartbeat is infectious while also being insightful and challenging.
Nneka is one of those artists who lives her truth musically, sharing her philosophies on life, love and politics with a particular emphasis on Nigeria and Africa. Coming from Warri in the volatile Niger Delta region, Nneka does not shy away from speaking out against the tragedies, prejudices and injustices that continue to affect many Africans.
Being of bi-racial descent also has an impact on her outlook although this is an aspect of her life she keeps relatively private. She grew up in Nigeria without much contact with her German mother and only started to build a relationship at 19 when she moved to Germany to study. It is also within this space that she was able to give her creativity true voice through her strong connection and collaboration with hip hop DJ and producer DJ Farhot.
She was recently in South Africa to perform at the 2009 Channel O Music Video Awards – she was nominated for 3 – and I was fortunate to get the opportunity to sit down and chat with her. What was to be an interview turned into a sharing of ideas and perspectives born from similarities in origin? She is very clear on her role as an artist and what she considers her responsibility as an African and a Nigerian, in terms of giving voice to the challenges that face us. Her words, her music are an extension of her, no image or persona created.
Her music is indefinable, influenced by everything from hip hop to reggae and, as further endorsement of the power of her artistry, mixtape maestro J.Period has collaborated with her to create J.Period & Nneka Present: The Madness (Onye-Ala) which is available for download.
Now signed with Sony Germany, hopefully she’ll have the support to truly establish herself globally. Based in Nigeria, she tours constantly (something in the region of 230 days a year & it’s probably about to get worse) and will be spending quite a bit of time in the US in the next few months. I am hoping she’ll be back in SA one of these days to do a proper show but, until then, if she’s in an area near you, go. You will not regret it.
[I have been holding this post for a while. Wanted to include video clips from the interview I did with Nneka. Soon come.]