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Nneka brought wit, wisdom and world politics to Schubas

Nneka brought wit, wisdom and world politics to Schubas

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Backed by her uber-talented band, the Nigerian singer united the venue with her emotive sound and ‘one love’ message. In the hull of Schubas Tavern, Nneka took to the stage at half eight on a humid, summer Sunday in Chicago. The show had been moved from big brother venue Lincoln Hall, that I wrongly journeyed to earlier that evening.

The mishap developed a vibe in myself that was reciprocated in the experience of the show. Nneka’s music, thematically and rhythmically, is well travelled. She sings in both English and Igbo and her instrumental sound can be described as eclectic: hip hop, soul, afrobeat and reggae included. Her politics are exemplar of our time: educational, multifarious, inclusive and mindfully expansive.

The crowd was tentative during the first half of her set, perhaps so chilled by her presence that they had forgotten about dancing. ‘My Home’ was a game changer in that respect. ‘Music…Music…Music’ she cried out, striking a chord in the people while plucking her body-less, silent guitar.

Her two most recent albums dominated the set. ‘My Fairy Tales’ was released on Bushqueen records this year following on from her 2012 LP ‘Soul Is Heavy’. The hip hop title track was well received, with hands raised above heads. ‘Book of Job’ from her new album bobbed with a classic reggae style. She is more widely known for the manipulated hit ‘Heartbeat’ which was sung along to adoringly.

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Between performances she interacted with the crowd confidently, playing games with them, making audacious jokes barely audible. She embarked on great speeches about corruption and whether we are all capable of being corrupted- a debate often trivialized by anthropology graduates. She joked about the possibility of her own regime, but humorously confessed she did not wish anybody to experience its unforgiving harshness. In one of her preaches she was overwhelmed by the spectacle and ‘cut a long story short’ by declaring ‘one love’ with her fist in the air and a wry smile on her face.

Nneka left the stage and reappeared as her band stood firm for an encore. She finished dutifully on ‘Pray for You’- her rhythmic opposition to Boko Haram, the militant group responsible for huge loss of life, particularly in the northeastern region of her home country.

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