Nneka’s Identity

Music journalist, Siddhartha Mitter, in the Boston Glove interviewed Nigerian singer, Nneka Egbuna (who studied anthropology and archeology at university and spent time at a refugee center in Germany), about her new album. Excerpts:

… Living in Europe gave me my identity, made my proud to be Nigerian …

… she wears her fears on her sleeve, as well as her remedies, which include conscious politics of the Fela variety along with unabashed Christian faith …

… Once, Nneka says, she was ashamed of her accent and would affect American speech instead. Now she rocks her Nigerian accent with pride, and she sings in English, Igbo, and Nigerian Pidgin, the rich street language. “De ting wey not fit kill you wey go mek you strong,’’ she sings on “Kangbe’’ – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

… Her story and her sound, with its Afrobeat, hip-hop, and soul influences, put Nneka in the lead of a new generation of cosmopolitan African singers that includes fellow Nigerians Asa and Ayo. They are picking up where Tracy Chapman, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu left off, only with roots set firmly on the African continent.

Nneka shrugs off any comparison. “I think it’s a coincidence,’’ she says, before conceding that perhaps a greater awareness of the diversity of African music is allowing artists like her to find a global audience.

Sean Jacobs

Sean Jacobs is the Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country. He is on faculty of The New School in New York.

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