Interview: Nneka, Nigeria’s New Messenger

Nneka, drummer Gary and Mike Phillips of Sound Citizen
Mike Phillips, Nneka and Gary

Once it was confirmed that I would be interviewing Nneka for Sound Citizen, I started my research. I watched previous interviews, listened to her music and plowed through Wikipedia for information on her homeland of Nigeria. When I was done, I felt like I just crammed for a political science final exam.

Nneka was shaping up to be a political, emotional tornado, expressing herself with a powerful mix of reggae, hip-hop, soul and rock. She is petite but her voice and presence is anything but small. Born in Nigeria, the half-German singer grew up in a musical incubator and among turmoil, exploitation and a people accustomed to expressing themselves in any way they can. I was feeling very much out of my element.

But Nneka immediately disarmed me as she walked through the hotel lobby in Chicago, looking directly into my eyes, then down while playfully lifting her gray fedora and saying, “Good day to you, sir” in one of the most delightful accents I’ve ever heard. Suddenly, I felt silly with my list of politically-charged questions.

We walked up the stairs to the second-floor lobby along with Nneka’s tour manager and Gary, her six-and-a-half-foot tall drummer. After finding a corner of the hotel restaurant with the lowest level of ambient music, we sat down and I started asking questions.

It turns out that Nneka is indeed politically and emotionally driven. But that’s not to be confused with being “emotional.” She is thoughtful, intelligent and focused even if, at times, she appears lost in her own thoughts. It’s not because she doesn’t know what to say but because she’s trying to figure out the best, most meaningful way to say it — just like she does in her music.

I would like to thank Nneka for this tremendous opportunity. And Gary, too — our impromptu camera man for the day.

The clip below has some volume issues, so crank it up and wear headphones if you have them. It was a challenging environment, acoustically, and I need new equipment.

Below the interview is some footage from a live performance of “The Uncomfortable Truth” from a performance in Philadelphia. Hear more of Nneka’s music.



2 Replies to “Interview: Nneka, Nigeria’s New Messenger”

  1. Wow i am touched by Nneka songs..change the world is what is needed. Lets come to the real world or reality; are the world leaders listning or still trapped in securing their wealth aquired from supported wars. For example wars in Africa and the world has been based on religion( Jewish, Islamic ways and Christainity and the oil business at large. I will give you an example Sudia Arabia is rich and super rich from oil resources and that emperior is very hard to break because it involves the Jewish, and islamic and those that are our leaders today; for example Ronald Regan the former USA leader tried to involve himself by opposing how the oil industry has gone so deep to run the world and guess what he could’nt do it it was just a talk but not do. we are talking of major powers that has used the oil resources to make decisonsof how the world should be ran. I may say Bob marley tried to talk about it and left a legacy to the world but did the leaders come back to their senses some did but most refused up until today. I think the only way to correct the issues of the oil world making decisions for all is to share the resources and allow all the world citizens have the basic needs such as food; clothing and shelter for all the world citizens and then move towards working together. If the oil business can shell out that much for that part of the world to improve the ways people live it will be a start. Today Damain marley and Nas has come again saying exactly what Bob marley spread to the world; let me get into the African leaders for example; they have finanly come together as so called the AU; yet all most all of them have failed Africa in not spreading Africa’s budget to the African citizens and blaming on colonization. The African leaders are the ones that has created Africa has it is today; remember that they control the budget and they can make better dicisions for their African citizens. By waking up i think the AFRICAN leaders have to wake up as we have seen that the majority African citizens have woke up long time ago just watching how the African leaders do not deliver.

  2. Nneka can she prepare a song and sing with Jay z all has to be based on the African Leaders that are part of the AU to come up with a solution on how they can all be booted out of the African leadership bring the new generation to come in and work with the world to make better decisions. Remember that the whole of Africa has been displaced all over the world and has acquired even more better education as per how things could be done. I my say more of the African communities that have been abroad have acquired better skills and better leadership ways to help generate better ideas for the African citizens to at least acquire the three basic needs needed for Humanity in their own African states. Right now the present leaders of Africa has denied the African citizens their right for food; shelter and clothing based on the poor leadership they have been engaged in at. For example how in the world will one African state acquire so much wealth and not spread it to the hungry African citizens that is being fed by the world food programs. To what confuses me is how in the world the African citizens still live in huts slums and poor housing faciltiies. I may say Mandela is the best leader so far and has built about three million houses for Soweto African citizens and a leader that has listened to Nneka and others to serve humanity. South Africa alone is building more houses for the poor SA that has been left behind and soon enough more of better clothing and more food will be spread to all sa citizens. I also think the AU offices should be brought to SA because allmost all of Africa is in SA that way to allow better rights to freedom of speech and allow more of the African communities to share ideas without being scared of bad AU leaders. again; what the AU is about to do in going to MOGADISHU and create a black on black war won’t be a better resolution. Lets come out of the war zone mentality and bring all those involved in Mogadishu and understand from two sides of the coin. There is nothing wrong of people wanting to have their Islamic laws but also it should beworked on upon to accomodate all Mogadishu residents. Allowing the UN and the world to solve Mogadishu ways won’;t work rather more problems will erupt in all of Africa and Africa will find itself going backwards rather solving the African problems. Africa do not need the world to make decisions in Africa in regards to peace, but with peaceful negotiations with those concerned in Mogadishu something can be resolved. Uganda is not the perfect place to negotiate for peace in Mogadishu, remember that most of the AU leaders has acquired Africa through and from an AK47 they are not failry elected African leaders but leaders that has contributed to the break up of Africa.

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