Soulful Singer Nneka is back with a brand new, self released album “My Fairy Tales” – a formidable collection of rich Afrobeat grooves, reggae-tinged beats and uplifting rhythms that reaffirm her place as one of the continent’s most exciting and relevant artists.
CNN’s African Voices caught up with Nneka in London to talk about music, memories and the current situation in Nigeria as well as present her with the questions you sent via the #AskNneka and #CNNAfrica hashtags.
Nneka – My Love, My Love (Official Video)
Read the interview below:
CNN: In the past, you’ve dealt with issues ranging from the environment and politics, to religion and love — what are the themes that you’re emphasizing at this moment?
Nneka: What is happening in Africa at present concerns me a lot. Boko Haram has always been an issue obviously for the past five, six years — funny wise, there’s a track in the album called “Pray For You” which I recorded when not too many people knew what was going with Boko Haram in the West.
I’m talking about the problems and possible solutions, and what are the reasons for the problems that we have. We as Nigerians, we’re not united, that has always been the issue… that’s our problem, tribalism, and what belongs to whom.
I also talk about children and the future, bringing children into this world… Everyone’s living in a cage and then you bring your child into that kind of society, where your child is forced to live in fear.
People are afraid to express themselves politically, and even in their home — I remember the way we grew up, I didn’t look my father in the eye until I was 22; you call your father “Sir, Sir, Sir” — apparently it’s a form of respect, OK, but respect should not be mistaken with fear. I was afraid and that’s the thing, that’s the colonial mentality: we mistake fear for respect.
CNN: What is the power of music and how can it influence things to bring positive change?
Nneka: Music is very powerful, music is big; music is even more powerful than politics at present. Beyonce would definitely draw more crowd than [Nigerian president] Goodluck Jonathan if she was going to hold a speech — if Beyonce is going to talk about Boko Haram, many people are going to listen, and if she had something to tell Nigerians about love or whatever, many people are going to listen.
CNN: How do you see the political and security situation now in Nigeria?
Nneka: All I can say is that we do need proper leadership. Yes, that’s just easier said than done, but we also need ourselves to take more things into our own hands — so if we want change, we have to show that we want change, peacefully — I love Malcolm X but I’d rather go for Martin Luther [King] — peacefully. And be part of it, not just blame our leaders and making sure that you, yourself, contribute to the change that you want to see.
#AskNneka: How much of the lyrics in your songs are a reflection of what’s going on in your personal life? Heartbeat strikes a raw nerve.
Nneka: My personal life always inspires me, in the first place, and then I try to expand it to the world. I try not to go too personal so that people can have their own interpretation of the song and also relate to it in their own special way.
Nneka – Book of Job (Official Video)
#AskNneka: What are some of your favourite books? can you recommend any that might give more of an insight into some of your deeper lyrics?
Nneka: I like The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, I like Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, I like the Bible. Right now I’m reading The Humans by Matt Haig.
Read! Just read, educate yourself!
#AskNneka: thoughts on Boko Haram in Nigeria and what the nation’s biggest challenges are in facing the threat.
Nneka: The way forward is going to be easier said than done, but tribalism is not they key. What we need is unity and to appreciate each other as Nigerians, as Africans, regardless of tribe and regardless of religion — imposing your religion on other people is only going to create war and turmoil, there has to be another way.
#AskNneka: In your journey through the music world what’s your biggest challenge?
Nneka: Being on tour for like five months; I mean you get used to the life, but [it’s hard] when you’re coming back home and then realizing that people move on when you’re not around.
#AskNneka: In your opinion, what changes should Africa encounter in order to flourish into a successful continent?
Nneka: It is successfully already, that’s why everybody is in it. That’s all I can say to that, it’s flourishing and they know it’s flourishing and that’s why they’re all there — the Chinese, the Americans, the Europeans and the rest of them.