Album: Soul Is Heavy
Label (Year): Decon 2012
For Fans Of: Ms. Dynamite, Alicia Keys, M.I.A., Grace Jones, Fela Kuti
Words by Emerald Rose Lewis
You may recognise Nigerian soul singer Nneka’s voice from Chase and Status’s chart smasher ‘Heartbeat’, released back in 2009. Nneka’s music moves me - especially as I feel that West African artists that make their way on to our record players, into our hard drives and through our radio airwaves are seldom women. She bridges the gap between afro beat and soul in a movingly poetic way, and there’s even an edge of rock to it instrumentally, with occasional heavy and fast drum beats, electric guitar solos, and powerful string sections.
For me this album touches a part of my soul that often lies in pain. Every single strain of vocal carries such passion and emotion that you can’t help but feel something with every word. There is a sense of injustice yet hope, pain yet love, sorrow yet joy. She combines light and shade effortlessly. Her voice is technically small, but the feral, wild edge to it means allows her to wail. She has no trouble getting her message across.
Lyrically, the album tackles the love/hate struggle of the human race. At times it can seem Nneka’s personal spat with love/hate is what dominates, but she is putting forward an altogether bigger picture and larger message. For me, this album makes me sit up and listen, and leaves me feeling like I respect and admire this artist each time I do. I even feel a sense of endearment towards her.