Having met singer and conscious musician Nneka before her concert at Fabrik, a music venue in Hamburg, we talked about her home country – Nigeria, the political power of music, the opportunities of travel and the inequalities inherent in conceptions of nationality and national borders.
“Hello Hamburg, it’s been a long time. It’s been a while since I’ve played in Europe,” Nneka greets the audience in the packed venue. Being just back to her second home Hamburg after having spent some months in her home country Nigeria she continues by saying: “I want to show you my thoughts through this music,” before filling the space with her voice and sounds, a blend of reggae, soul, afrobeat and hip hop.
Nneka Egbuna educates and informs her audience about contemporary global, political and social issues with a special emphasis on those concerning her home country Nigeria – almost like a melodious news presenter. Not only are many of her lyrics political but she uses her captivating stage presence for short speeches that put her music into context. Nneka fills the space with an aura. After the concert it’s not only her, the audience leaves inspired by but ones own thoughts that were triggered by her performance. Thoughts, that go far beyond evolving around one singer or one place. Thoughts, that motivate to stand up, to take everyone around with you, starting to make a change.
Your lyrics regularly speak about political topics and you don’t hesitate to spread political messages during your concerts. What do you think about the political power of music?
I think music is very powerful. It draws attention and the type of audience you have access to is way beyond the official, strict presentation audience type of vibe. It goes beyond borders. Music doesn’t necessarily even has to be understood, language wise, it’s a feeling. You could use words, you could use melody, you could use frequency, you could use energy to communicate, all at the same time. That makes music more powerful than politics, as far as I’m concerned. Or makes music become part of politics, or politics become a part of music.
Do you think people can understand political situations through music?
Yeah, definitely. You could use music to educate people on what is happening around the world. And make it easier for those who think they know already to become more softened towards certain problems. Not every issue has to be solved via conferences or war.
How does travel influence you personally and your work?
I think to travel is a great, great opportunity. I would’ve never ever have thought I would have this chance what I’m doing. Just reminding yourself of the advantage you have. Take everything in. It is beautiful to meet different people, experience their culture, their traditions, their type of music. Be open to learn. And involve that into your music. Into everything.
What does nationality mean to you?
Nationality like German, English…?
Around 2000 people protest at detention centre Yarl’s Wood on 12.03.2016. The aim of the recurring protests is to achieve a shutdown of all detention centres in the UK and elsewhere. Visit facebook.com/movementforjustice/ for more information.
Editing Elisa Schmitz Camera Clara Hebel