Diana Levine Nigerian singer Nneka's joy and enthusiasm for her music is…
- Posted on Nov 10th 2010 3:30PM by David Dacks
Born and raised in Nigeria by a black father and white mother, Nneka has bounced between her homeland and Germany as an adult, with each locale adding to her perspective on music and politics.
"I gained an awareness of Africa in Germany," she tells Spinner. "I think if I wouldn't have stepped out of Africa, if I hadn't lived in Germany, I wouldn't have had that mindset today."
Her mindset is focused on changing perceptions of Africa. "The way people see Africa is mostly dark," she says, narrowing her eyes. "HIV, poverty, corruption, oppressed, black and helpless -- this is a picture that I am trying to remove, eradicate through my music. We have a lot more potential in Africa; we are educated, we have resources that the Western world is dependent on. Everything that the West is today is predominantly because of Africa."
Nneka has been producing music over the past seven years alongside collaborator DJ Farhot, gaining momentum with each successive release. Her first album, 'Victim of Truth,' introduced her musical blend, while her second, 'No Longer at Ease,' reinforced her political pronouncements, especially with regard to the activities of petroleum multinationals working in the Niger Delta.
Last year, after much word of mouth and internet buzz, the song 'Heartbeat,' from her latest album, 'Concrete Jungle,' hit the UK Top 20, officially making Nneka a hot commodity. She also got a hand from FIFA, placing a track on the official World Cup album and in EA Sports' 'FIFA 2010' videogame. An appearance on 'Late Night With David Letterman' and touring with Damian Marley and Nas -- who is featured on her recently released 'Heartbeat' remix EP -- have also helped her make further inroads into America.
'Concrete Jungle' -- Nneka's most accomplished work to date -- perfectly captures her mature musical style. She's not trying to willfully break down musical genres, nor pander with simple grooves -- Nneka's music is about true self-expression.
"I'm not that rational about it," she states, attempting to sum up her musical gumbo. "I always like earthy, authentic sounds. I like deep beats when it comes to hip-hop -- deep, melancholic beats. The reason I create music is because I am passionate about it, and the result... well, if people dance, great; if people stand, no problem."
All at once serious and deliberate, Nneka says, "I hope that what I am today is of positive benefit to other people."