Friday, May 13th, 2011, the legendary SOB’s located in Soho, New York was the place to be as a legend in the making, neo-soul/hip-hop singer and song-writer, Nneka performed to a sold-out audience. Authentic and always guaranteed to bring soul connecting music to the masses, many have described Nneka as a modern day advocate for social and political change. Others have simply welcomed the “realness” she brings to an over-commercialized music industry. In her home country, Nigeria, Nneka is celebrated by young and old alike as her music resonates with millions and cuts across generations.
Back to the event at SOB’s organized as part of Afrisonore’s Unplugged Live Series. The show began with a press session where Nneka gave the media her undivided attention. During the session, Nneka discussed her musical influences citing Fela, the African music icon, as her inspiration. She discussed her exploding music career and aspirations, among many equally interesting topics. Members of the press wanted to know how she felt about her growing popularity in the USA.
Nneka responded to that question by saying she felt she owed her popularity in the USA to mainly her appearance on the David Letterman Show in February 2010. She also felt her subsequent interview on CNN African Voices in July of the same year helped her gain even more fans. With that answer, the media was only warming up as they asked so many questions including what inspires and informs her music. Music, for Nneka, is something she was born with, a natural talent. She explained to the press that she writes and produces most of her songs and draws inspiration for her music from the many problems Africa faces. I guess that would make the description of her being a modern day advocate for social and political change, on point.
As the interview progressed, the Afrisonore team made sure the audience was not left out; as Nneka gave her undivided attention to the press. Wetting the already anxious appetite of an eager audience, the Afrisonore team played some of Nneka’s hit songs, a crowd favorite being Nneka’s hit song ‘Heartbeat.’ ‘Heartbeat,’ is one of the songs that really helped Nneka gain cross over appeal within and outside the USA. The song was played with its accompanying music video on a big screen and the images from the video seemed to jump at the audience, teasing and promising a great time ahead with the star.
Finally, the hour arrived, just before midnight, for Nneka to grace the stage. Making her grand entrance onto the stage, Nneka carried with her onto the stage, her beautiful guitar. She also brought her classic dimpled charming smile and soulful energy. Also consistent with her signature was the laid-back afro-chic and partly Bohemian outfit she wore. Upon arrival on stage, Nneka welcomed her already excited fans. In response to her greetings, fans screamed,“Nneka!” filling the air with even more excitement and the indefinite but beautiful destination the artist was sure to take fans. As if on cue, and within moments, Nneka indeed began taking fans on her musically glorious journey. She was soulful and sexy in her uniquely chic, down to earth way. She serenaded her audience with her voice and music abilities, teasing them with ‘Come with Me,’ a single off her Freshman USA album, Concrete Jungle.
The audience and her fans indeed came with her. As they traveled with Nneka, she continued with songs such as ‘Kangpe,’ ‘Suffri’ and ‘VIP.’ VIP according to Nneka, is an acronym for “Vagabond in Power.” Before singing VIP, Nneka explained the concept behind the song. According to her, a “Vagabond in Power” is anyone who exploits, tortures or torments his/her subordinate. Next, she coached the audience to sing along with her and respond in chants “Vagabond in Power,” on cue. Her already cheerful audience filled with fans quickly obliged.
As Nneka sang “Vagabond in Power” and her audience responded, you could feel the energy in the room rise to even “nolstagically” crazy temperatures, climaxing when Nneka took to her African drum and passionately sang “Vagabond in Power O!” The exciting temperatures becoming unbearable, fans succumbed to her voice and the beat of the drums; as they danced their worries away and aversion for the “Vagabonds in Power.” It was an amazing sight to behold and experience.
Nevertheless, as beautiful as the VIP moment was, it was outdone when the tune for “Heartbeat,” came alive. As soon as Nneka began to sing the lyrics, fans joined in and the room went wild. The night ended on that high note and fans were left yearning for more when Nneka left the stage.
Those wanting more were from all works of life. They were so diverse and really underscored Nneka’s power as a talented artist whose music is such food to the soul, it connects with people from such diverse backgrounds.
If you missed it, you’ve been briefed, Ladybrille style. But, be sure not to miss the next Afrisonore Unplugged Live series.
Who will be next in the series? We shall see. . . for now, we will join to reminiscence on the great time we had with Nneka. “Vagabond in Power O!”