Nneka is a Nigerian-German hip-hop/soul singer. She was born and raised in Nigeria, but went to Germany at 18 to pursue her career in singing (along with a degree in Anthropology!) Nneka has worked closely with German beat-maker DJ Farhot. She first gained attention as an opening act for Sean Paul at Hamburg Stadtpark, and shortly after began working on her debut album. She finished recording the album in the autumn of 2005: Victim of Truth. It was released not only in Germany but also in England, France, Netherlands, Nigeria and Japan. The album earned rave reviews from the media, the UK’s Sunday Times later declared it “the year’s most criminally overlooked album”, comparing it favourably to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (one of the greatest albums of all time! I was listening to it earlier tonight!).
Her second album, No Longer at Ease, was released in 2008. Most of the songs are political, talking about the plight of the Niger Delta and the corruption Nigeria. The lead single from it, ‘Heartbeat’, became her first song to break into the German Top 50. In September 2009, the song entered the UK Singles Chart at number twenty. In November 2009, Nneka staged her first concert tour of the United States where she performed shows in New York City, Vienna (Washington DC), Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Furthermore she was a special guest on The Roots Jam session. Her first US release Concrete Jungle was set for 2 February 2010.
Soul is Heavy is the third album by singer Nneka. It was released on 18 March 2012 in the U.K. In a recent interview Nneka stated that the album is “a bit more of a “band” sound this time around, a mix of digital and organic music. Still very me, though. It deals with issues that have to do with the day-to-day life of people: corruption, false prophecies, religion, war conflict…” The album is definitely of a somewhat different style from her previous two, but it is amazing, and still so very Nneka. I love her voice. I think it’s very raw and emotional. You can hear for sure the African roots in her beats and I think it gives a sort of “earthy” quality to her songs. If nothing else, Nneka’s music is incredibly powerful.
Sometimes I am bewildered by how magical music is. After I found Keny Arkana, I decided I should try to find some more French hip-hop, and have I struck gold. Hocus Pocus is a French hip-hop/jazz/soul /funk band from Nates. That’s right, a hip-hop-jazz band. Could this be real? The group was formed in 1995 and had some attention throughout the 90s, but really became popular in 2006 for their LP 73 Touches. They have had 5 albums to date, and I have gotten my hands only two so far but I will hunt for the rest!
Obviously the music is just wonderful. The group’s music has been described as a mix of all hip-hop true elements with live instrumentation influenced by jazz, soul & funk music. The merging of these styles is an incredible blend, it is smooth, it is funky, and it is real. So far I have only listened to their latest album, 16 Pièces, but as a whole it is a truly spectacular work. I don’t even know what to say, as I listen it just gets better…so listen!!!!
Weeks back now, I was watching the Graham Norton Show because my idol, Madonna, was a guest (and I had had the sublime pleasure that week of realizing my cable includes BBC America!). The musical guest was Emeli Sandé who was releasing her debut album the next week. When I heard her perform “Next to Me” I fell instantly in love with her and could not wait for the album to drop! During her brief segment on the show with Graham, he had noted that her first name is actually Adele and she replied that she could not very well use that as her stage name after the wild success of fellow her fellow Brit artist. Her first single, “Heaven”, was released in August 2011 and was a huge hit. The album, Our Version of Events, was released in February 2012. She took the 2012 Brit Awards’ award for Critic’s Choice.
Our Version of Eventswas number 1 on the UK (where the album went platinum) and Scottish album charts, and made top 10 on Belgian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, and Irish charts. In the UK, the album sold 113,319 copies in its first week, becoming the second fastest-selling album of 2012. It also marks the best first week sales for a debut album by a British female solo artist since Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream debuted at number one in December 2009 with sales of 411,820 copies.
Sandé’s album is a great soul/R&B album. Her voice is something incredible. That was what instantly drew me to hear. It is so clear and powerful. I absolutely love it. “Heaven” is an incredible singe, and the video is pretty spectacular. “Next to Me” is without a doubt my favourite track off the album, and a single I cannot listen to enough! There is a real quality to her songs, filled with a raw kind of emotions. “Clown” is an example of one of these raw ballad-y songs off the album. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s beautiful. “Daddy” is another example of her raw power. I can’t sing the praises of this album enough!
Check out her website: Emeli Sandé
My path to discovery of Selah Sue is somewhat convoluted: I was searching for some good old school Gospel which led to a search for good soul music, and somehow I happened upon Selah. Turns out she is from Belgium and her debut self-titled album was released about this time last year! The album was widely successful in Europe, going 3x platinum in Belgium and platinum in France. It also won her a European Border Breakers Award, which is award each year to ten artists/groups who reach audiences outside of their country with their first internationally released album. I never knew about the EBBAs and I guess they started only in 2004. Pretty awesome though.
Well I just absolutely love the album! Her voice is powerful, her songs are great, what more can I say? The album has had four singles: “Raggamuffin”, “Crazy Vibes”, “This World”, and “Summertime”. It also has a duet (“Please”) with Cee Lo! What? Magic! Songs like “Mommy” and “Summertime” have a soft acoustic splendour to them, both equally emotional. “Black Part Love”, much more energetic and powerful, is one of my favourite tracks off the album. Overall the album has a diverse yet cohesive feel to it and I really appreciate the variety. All amazing. This is one I will be listening to over and over!
Check out her site: Selah Sue