Q. Nneka, now that you are here in Chicago for Lollapalooza let's talk about your journey to reach this point.
A. Well, I've been into to this for about 7 sevens years now. I've released a couple of albums in Africa as well as in Europe. The first album dropped for the states earlier this year called "Concrete Jungle". And with a couple of artists we've done various tours. We've toured with Lenny Kravitz, Gnarls Barkley, Damien Marley and Nas, and we were supposed to tour with Lauren Hill-but this didn't happen.
As for the music, it was something I never considered wanting to do professionally. It wasn't something that I wished for-music was something that I always felt connected to and protected. I did not want to destroy or rape(it) like many of us do and all that-it was very difficult for me seeing music as a profession and earning money from it. I felt like I was preaching the word of god to people and taking money from them. I then eventually had to understand that if I was going to have a band-a live band-I was going to need to support them, their families and that earning money from it would not make me bad person as long as I used the money right in the right places.
The musical initially started when I was living in Hamburg, Germany at the age of 19. I had just got fired from a job that I was doing in a very chic clothing boutique to finance my studies. It was not my thing-but this was something I did because I knew they might need my ideas which they actually did. They always played music while people came so I brought in hip hop and traditional African music. I would even be outgoing and jovial to the clients advising them on what clothes looked best.
Even if the boutique wanted me to sell the clothes and get the money-if it didn't look good I wouldn't do it and that is one problem they had with me. We had all these VIP people, with botox it was very posh-so you could imagine me with these people in my baggy pants and it did not fit for the woman who was in charge so they fired me.
After being fired I was running through town looking
for a job and saw a sign board which said "Yomama Records-Mother is Supreme" in German. And my name means "mother is supreme" and that is where the whole connection was-it was very weird. But I had heard before of Yomama but didn't know they were a record company. So I went there to ask for details about the place.
The boss invited me into his office, and I already had one or two tracks recorded and played them for Martin(the boss). He liked what he heard and suggested that I invite him to one of my gigs. So I had to find a place and stage a show-the first one was in Reeperbahn-in Hamburgs red light district at a place called Funky Pussy. I performed there and he liked what he saw. I organized another one at a bigger hall and he liked that one two.
Two or three months later he contacted me to let me know Yomama wanted to sign me. The albums to follow were called "No Longer at Ease", "To and Fro" and
then Sony/Epic came in after seeing my music video on Youtube called
"Heartbeat" (which has garnered close to 3 millions views). I had already recorded the album including this single-so when they signed me all they had to do was master it and push the album through-it was called "Victim of Truth".
Q. You are very industrious yet humble-how do you balance all of this?
Yes, myself I don't know. I guess I'm bipolar...threepolar...fourpolar...I'm schizzo...frantic (laughing out loud)!
Q. What was behind the song "Heartbeat" why do you think it has appealed to so many people?
A. The way we recorded it as you say...was very hilarious. I came to the studio of DJ Farhot-the guy who used to live in the Suburbs of Germany(before our recent success which has him living city center)-he had this drum loop running and I was like we can make use of that. Within ten minutes I had the first verse done and the hook line came immediately...we had most of the song done in 45 minutes.
What inspired me to write that song is the present mind state of our people in Africa in particular the political leaders who have been corrupt and still are(...there are some good ones but they end up being eliminated immediately). There are those leaders who work with western interests that exploit certain areas-and this song is to raise awareness on this topic and these areas-especially the oil issue in Nigeria.
Q. You father is Nigerian correct?
A. Yes, he is Nigerian.
Q. Where did you establish your musical roots-was it your father?
A. Well, my father liked music but it was not like he played music at home. I knew that he liked James Brown and that he like Fela(Kuti) secretly. He was not open about his liking of Fela because it would reveal his political ideology openly to the public. But now it's cool.
Q. Do you have any musical influences from the U.S?
A. I didn't listen to much music from the U.S. growing up. We used to hear radio, local radio play-Nigerians love listening to Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey-Boyz to Men and Michael Jackson. Nigerians can recite to you word for word songs by Whitney Houston. I like Gospel myself and traditional music from Nigeria.
Q. For those who don't get to see your show at Lolla what can they expect to see in your show?
A. Well me, me myself and love-authentic, organic, simple-no fake, no mask...pure.
Lucky for me I had the chance to see Nneka perform at Lollapalooza and her show was outstanding. If I had to describe her sound it would be a mixture of Macy Gray and Bob Marley...be that what it may she sounds good and I will look to add her albums to my record collection.