Nneka: Serious sonic heat

Nneka in concert.

Nneka is being called the next Lauryn Hill, but her journey to the top is in reverse.  Nneka started out as a refugee youth, fleeing Africa to live in Germany.  She built up a grassroots following as a solo artist, blending hip-hop, afrobeat and reggae.  She isn’t famous yet but she prays her way through tours and shares the gospel in interviews.

Nneka Egbuna is a Nigerian-German soul singer rising through the ranks of UK radio and bringing her European tour stateside with a show at Gramercy Theater on March 27.   She is some serious Sonic Hot Sauce, blending Nigerian afrobeat with classic soul music sensibility.  Her lyrics are socio-political and god-fearing but delivered with a sweet cadence and a relaxed manner.  Nneka’s music is stylish and easily straddles the globe.  She calls it a relationship between two loves, Africa and The West.

“My Home” is the first single off her new U.S. release and the video is my favorite.  In it beautiful Nneka toils in country fields, works as a street cleaner in an orange jumpsuit, and speaks from a boardroom in Lagos.  Images show us busy people in a lonely city.  In each role she’s lost and running for help.  Lyrics speak of losing your home and, in the video, Nneka shifts from worker to businesswoman to religious village woman praying on the city street.

“Heartbeat” and “Stay” are songs that stick with you, in haunting vocals, drums and piano melodies.  “Uncomfortable Truth” blazes through funky bass lines via piano, handclap rhythm and a hot hook that has you before you digest its peaceful revolutionary mantra.  “Shining Star” is from her new record, “Soul is Heavy,” being released in the U.S. this week.  Nneka is that rare soul artist who isn’t R&B at all.  She’s sexy and smart; her music moves you through a candle-lit, global-village lounge of seductive beats and lilting vocal lines.


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