Why I sing about politics–Nneka Egbuna, multiple award-winning Jazz singer


By WOLE BALOGUN
Nneka Egbuna is of Nigerian father and German mother. Her genre of music is Jazz and she is also a guitarist. As a proof of her ingenuity, Egbuna has clinched several awards both at home and abroad. These include the 2009 Music of Black Origin (MOBO), Nigeria Entertainment Award, and a South African award, among others.

 Now Starcomms ambassador, Egbuna has her stunning image on billboards across the country. She currently launders the telecommunication giant’s image with her captivating performance in each of the firm’s offices. Recently, Daily Sun met Egbuna after performing for Starcomms in Lagos and she spoke on diverse issues, including why her music is political.
 Becoming the 2009 MOBO award winner

 I entered for best African art, in the same category a L D, as well as Sirleaf Cater and D’ Banj but they chose me as the winner. That is just one of the awards I have won. I have also won the Nigeria Entertainment Award (NEA) on two occasions. I also won the South African Award (SAA), among others. I believe the message of my music has won me those awards.

 Professionally, I have been into music for about eight years now. I was born and raised in Nigeria. I was born in Warri, my father is an indigene of Anambra State, while my mother is a German.

 Inspiration
 My history inspires the music. Growing up in Warri and being of two cultures, experiencing negative and positive aspects of my childhood. Of course, the conflicting Warri, the tribalism, seeing other people, how they live their lives, what they encountered, their challenges, the issues of corruption, and of course everything in Nigeria inspires my music. There is also the movement of people, their chaos, the peace within the chaos, the sanity inside the madness, the contradictions, Nigeria being a very religious country and at the same time the country that harbours the most horrible voodoo or juju practitioners of the world. All these inspire my music. So I am part of the system and that makes me what I am.

 Albums
 Officially, I have done five albums. My first album was released in 2004, it is entitled victims of truth. The album is about people suffering for speaking the truth. The second album is entitled No longer at ease which is derived from Chinua Achebe, I read the book back in the days but I had forgotten the contents and after I have composed the song and composed the title, I still went back to read the book. And surprisingly the story fits into my songs. In fact, the album recreates the scenario created in the book. Most of my songs are very political and also personal.

 The third album which is the one I am celebrating now is entitled The Soul is Heavy. It is also political and it is about the things that have happened in Nigeria in the last three to four years. My return to Nigeria, my movement to Lagos, the situation with Boko Haram , a lot of kidnappings and many others.

 Most challenging track
 This is the title track. What I m trying to say with the title is that with the abundance of the heart the mouth has to speak. So much has been said, the soul is heavy, it is tired, the spirit is tired and the heart is down and I have to speak for those who can’t speak. And I have to cry for those who don’t have water anymore to shed tears. Oh, my music is a cry out of the heaviness of the soul and I talk about the plight of the Niger Delta, about the oil problem, corruption and the injustice between tribes, about religious conflicts, and racism abroad, especially as I have personally experienced it. I also talk about the positive aspects of our life too.

 Racism experience
 I recall an incident where I had finished my dissertation and the professor didn’t fancy the fact that I was a musician, studying because I did not get financial help for my studies from my parents. So, I had to use what I make in music to finance my studies. I studied Archeology and Anthropology.

 I was performing at different places in the world and used the money to finance my studies but I was not popular then. Sometimes, I would attend the class late with my guitar because I was coming from a show but the professor didn’t like it but I was hard working. I had an impression that he did not like me as a person and especially as an African because Africans, studying Archeology were quite rareand we had our points of views and obviously I believed that everything about it was done from a very Eurocentric perspective.

 So, I had my views you know but he refused to see my dissertation and he made statements about it a couple of times, ‘I have checked out your profile; you are quite popular and you are doing music. You people are good at playing basket ball, your people are good at dancing, you are good at jumping around’ and he was obviously making that racist statement about the blacks in general. So, I went back to my dissertation and tried to improve on it. I thoughtI was thinking too inferior about my- self. I even had a guardian to assist just to make sure that my cards were clean and he had nothing against me and I went back the second time and he made a similar statement again. I wanted to use a tape to record him but in the end I talked to myself that, that would only cause drama, court case and all that. I just decided to let that seminar go and I did another one with a different professor.

 I had challenges with acknowledgement in Nigeria. I have always stuck to my origin in Africa. Trying to push my music in Nigeria was a very big challenge in the beginning until I won the MOBO award, until I was on CNN it was then Nigerians started taking me serious. And of course Starcomms made me ambassador and my face is everywhere in Nigeria, on the bill boards and so on. People might not even know that I am a musician. And that exposure has supported me a lot to push my music in the last 10 months. I have a short contract with them.

 Becoming Starcomms ambassador
 The idea of the contract is to combine my identity as a musician to blend with what Starcomms represents in Nigeria, it is a telecommunication company that is for everybody, it is not just for the high class or middle class and that is what my music represents, it is also for every body. And the major idea initially was for them to support my foundation, ROPE- Reach out Promote and Empower- and focuses mainly on children, young adults and women to empower them and use art as a platform for them to express themselves towards talks on major socio-political and economic issues.

 And since I am in charge of the foundation, all the funds Starcomms gives me have been spent on the foundation. And everything has been going on fine despite the challenges of my music. We hope to hold workshops in Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe soon.
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