“What struck me most about Nneka’s music is that her story is so present in every song. The spirit and struggle of her roots in Africa, a sense of responsibility inherited from Fela, conflict and perspective gained living abroad in Germany. Her music is a contagious combination of genres and styles that just pulled me in right away. Artists who refuse to be confined to one genre are often considered crazy. Artists who follow their conscience are considered crazy. This is that brand of crazy." - hiphop producer J.Period
First and foremost, Nneka, is an activist. Like contemporaries such as Lauryn Hill, she uses music to deliver her message. She does not see herself as "a performer but as somebody who shares her heartfelt feelings with others" through music.
"It’s important that I do everything with my heart — that I stand on stage, that I do my music from the depth of my heart, for me to be able to transmit that message of love."
Born in Nigeria, Nneka moved to Germany at 19. She never planned to move, and life was tough. At one point she was scrubbing toilets. She describes, "When I left Nigeria for Germany, I was totally on my own without friends and family. My trip wasn’t really planned; I never wanted to step out of Nigeria. All I wanted was a better life ... I started school and started learning the German language but I was lonely and I needed something to hold onto and music was the only thing that gave me that solace and so it became my family.” She met hip-hop producer DJ Farhot, and, soon afterward, signed to independent label Yo Mama.
"I never knew [that I wanted to be a professional musician], even till today, I just love the feeling of having music, music would never betray you or hurt you, just like Bob [Marley] said, 'When it hits you, you feel no pain and there is God within it.'"
"Music gave me the opportunity to travel around the world and have experiences. Personally, music gave me even more courage and a healthy dose of self-esteem because before I left [Nigeria], I did not have any self-esteem.”
Influenced by Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Mobb Deep, Nneka developed an Afrobeat sound: soulful ballads, reggae-pop, and lively, borderline-aggressive chants. A star-in-the-making in Europe and the 2009 winner of the MOBO (South Africa's version of MTV) and Channel O Best African Act Award, she is now bringing her message to the US.
"Spurred on by poignant piano and crisp drum breaks, Nneka's voice (think a less spacey Erykah Badu) alternates between righteously bold and heartbreakingly fragile." -Spin
"Soul queen in the making.” - Blues & Soul
“Nneka” means “mother is supreme, mother is the best” in Igbo, a language spoken by a minority group living in Southern Nigeria. True to her namesake, she is both friendly and tough. Her lyrics are full of rage over injustices, but she has honed her artistic sensitivity to delivering an inspirational, positive message.
“I get inspired when I take a severe look at the things going on in our world today; especially in my country. How people live, suffer and endure pain, politics and religion, when I see all that man has evoked and created out of self-centeredness and devotion to material things."
"I know that there are many people out there who go through the same or similar problems, and this is my mission to give those people the courage, that no matter what, or whatsoever you're going through in life, as long as you want something and you believe in yourself and you believe there is a God, things can definitely change."
Her strategy is simple: influence by example. "Do not doubt yourself, as long as you do it in honesty and in truth, then it will be of an advantage to the people, it will make a positive impact on them."
"To be able to make a change in the world, you have to be part of that change. You have to be honest with yourself, because if you’re not honest with yourself, and if you’re not in touch with your spirit, then you’re not able to make any change at all."
Wise beyond her 27 years, with talent that comes straight from the heart, Nneka is going to have a breakthrough 2010.
More info: myspace, official page
First US Single, "The Uncomfortable Truth"