I discovered Nneka Lucia Egbuna a few years ago when I happened upon a Youtube video of her playing an acoustic session on a sidewalk in Paris. Delightfully raw and gritty, with whooshing sounds of traffic passing by on the streets, the clip sent me down the digital rabbit hole. By night's end, I'd spent hours watching numerous Nneka videos and sampling every recording I could find by the Nigerian singer-songwriter with the husky, high-pitched voice and defiant lyrics centered on injustice in her home country.
[jump] Concrete Jungle, Nneka's 2010 compilation of sizzling, reggae-tinged soul, R&B, and Afrobeat from two earlier European releases, became my new favorite old album. And while Nneka's acoustic sessions initially sparked my interest, it's her electric stuff — seen in tough videos like the one for her 2009 song “Heartbeat” and powerful live performances of songs like “The Uncomfortable Truth” — that best showcase the singer's charisma.
You can see that charisma in action this week as Nneka performs two shows at the New Parish in Oakland — one tonight and another tomorrow — in support of her latest album My Fairy Tales, on which she brings even more of the reggae she's often experimented with to the fore of her funky and soulful sound. For a taste of the new record, watch Nneka get up close and real personal in this video for the new single, “My Love, My Love”
Nneka and Antique Naked Soul, Plus Youth Speaks poets Shannon Matesky, Jeannine Kayembe, Ben Turner, Obasi Davis, and Imani Diltz, and live painting by MamaWisdom1 at the New Parish, Thursday, June 4 and Friday, June 5. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$30.