Nigerian Soul and Hip-Hop Star Nneka Won't Be Playing Small Venues for Long

Nneka  (who will make a stop at Lost Lake Lounge tonight) may be one of the most famous international artists who is mostly unknown in America. But if perseverance and talent are any indicators, that won't be the case for long. Born Nneka Egbuna in the Niger Delta region and half-German by ancestry, Egbuna was able to escape the violence and oppression of her homeland at age nineteen to Germany, where she mingled with other expatriates and refugees and learned to play music, first acoustic and then electric guitar. Early on she began working with hip-hop producer, DJ Farhot, who has been her collaborator on albums since 2003.

Egbuna's natural curiosity and ambition lead her to the release of her debut EP, 2005's The Unfomfortable Truth followed later that year by her critically acclaimed debut full-length, Victim of Truth. Her ability to weave powerful narrative and commentary on the subjects of poverty, war and the dark side of capitalism into a beautifully poetic and eclectic musical expression earned her fans around the globe including Lenny Kravitz, Nas and Damian Marley. The latter two brought her on their tour in support of their Distant Relatives record. Nneka also did vocals for the most recent Tricky album, False Idols.

Nneka's latest album, 2015's My Fairy Tales, released through Egbuna's own imprint, Bushqueen Music, is rich not just in its vivid storytelling but also in its musical diversity, blending Highlife, hip-hop, R&B, classical music, traditional African music and pop. Egbuna's gift for fusing the spiritual with the socially-critical and a compassion for the struggles of everyday people truly sets her work apart from many of her musical peers. Part of her unique perspective does in fact come from her own experiences as an immigrant who took advantage of social and creative freedom she experienced in Germany, the availability of free sources of information like libraries and what is clearly a personal talent for absorbing languages.

“When I started speaking French, it was amazing what language does with your brain and how you think,” recalls Egbuna. “Because you start seeing images of what you are trying to say. It's very similar in its morphology of the Igbo language or the Yoruba language—the imagery of the language. When I spoke French I started to speak German differently. Then I learned phrases in English and used words that I probably wouldn't have picked up before and I put them together and it worked. It makes the sentences more beautiful, I think. It enriches the expression.”

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Nneka's music is indeed an instantly accessible and diverse experience and you can check out her show tonight at an intimate setting: Lost Lake Lounge. With talented locals like Povi Tamu and Bianca Mikahn opening with their own brand of diverse experimental music, it's sure to be a memorable evening.

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.

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