I met my mum for the first time when I was 17 –Nneka, Nigeria Idol judge

6 years ago by: Justina
-- (f) at 26-04-2014 12:58AM

(7 | Newbie)

German-Nigerian hip/hop and soul singer, Nneka Egbuna, tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo how she got into music

How did you become a part of Nigeria Idol judges?

A friend of mine who is in charge of my PR called me and asked me if I would be interested in it and I said I was. Initially, I had my doubts since I hadn’t done anything like this before. But now that I am here, it is tasking but at the same time, okay. I have learnt to negotiate and listen to what the other judges have to say about the contestants.

How has it been all this while?

It has been okay. I had my issues at the beginning with being a judge, telling people how they should be. That I think is the major and vital key that should be given to these contestants. You should not lose yourself. You should not lose who you are just because you want to be a star.

Are there some contestants you feel that shouldn’t have bothered coming on the show?

I was so shocked the other week when those who I considered to be talented weren’t voted for. They didn’t make it to the top 12 of the show.  Most of the contestants who have been able to make it to the top so far are people who are well connected. They have people who can recharge cards and vote for them. It is based on connection and sympathy. There was a contestant who, as far as I am concerned, was one of the best. But she wasn’t voted for.

You have won so many international music awards including the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) awards. Interestingly, you don’t behave like the average Nigerian celebrity. Is there a reason you look so ordinary like the girl next door?

How does the average Nigerian celeb look like? In any case, it would be strange for me to be like somebody else. It is not as if I don’t like good things. If you ‘dash’ me Range Rover sports, I will accept it. I might even wear ‘killer’ heels if you give me one. I might even look good on them. But what if I start feeling uncomfortable? I have to be myself all the time. I think it is safer for me. I like being simple.

Did you expect to win the MOBO?

Never! I didn’t expect it. I didn’t even expect I was going to be a musician, let alone winning an award. I never saw myself as a singer. I didn’t see myself as somebody who had a good voice. I remember my days in secondary school in Warri (Delta State). The likes of Omawunmi (Megbele) were the ones with good voices. They were in the school choir and we always admired them and their courage.  I was always laid back and I would sit quietly at a corner. I never wanted to be the centre of attraction. I had to eventually tell myself that, ‘Nneka, it’s okay to sing.’ I told myself it was okay to earn money.

Your kind of songs must have put you into trouble before…

Oh yes. It has. I performed in Port Harcourt some-time ago during the Niger Delta Peace concert and officials of the State Security Service got me arrested. I performed my song, VIP, which was inspired by the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. VIP means Vagabonds in Power. The song is about the oppression in the Niger Delta. I made the audience sing along with me during that performance. The politicians didn’t find the song funny. They sent the SSS to arrest me. I don’t know how but we eventually got out of it.

But that experience should have stopped you from singing such songs…

No! Never! That is one of the favourite songs of so many of my fans in Nigeria and even Nigerians in the Diaspora. They love that song. I didn’t even mention names in the song. Fela mentioned names in his songs. I am not saying I am so knowledgeable about politics in Nigeria. I only sing about injustice. I will never stop. We all have a conscience.

Taking you back to your days in secondary school when you said you didn’t want to be known, but with your skin colour, you must have stood out in the crowd?

Yes. I was not known as a singer but I was known as a ‘Scripture Union’ mixed breed girl who used to wear one long skirt and blouse. I just wanted to be humble. But I eventually realised that humility shouldn’t be taken as stupidity or timidity. It is good to be humble but don’t allow people to take you for granted. Warri dey for my blood well well. Nobody can remove that one.

Can you remember how you started music?

It was when I travelled to Germany that I began to have the time to invest in what I had passion for. Somebody who had asked me if I wanted to go into music had advised it was important I wrote my lyrics. I started with writing on my diaries. Then, I had the courage to sing the lyrics I wrote. I had people who complemented me. Most of them were men. With time, I started performing at different places. Eventually, I got signed to Sony Records.

How did you get the Sony deal?

I was looking for job in town; I had got fired from my previous job as a sales girl. I needed money to finance my studies. I saw a signboard- Yomama Records- and underneath it was written ‘Mother is the best.’ This is my name. Nneka means Mother is supreme. I just went there. I asked them if they would allow me to show them the four songs I had. I always carried my songs around. The man was so kind to allow me to show him. He listened to all the songs without skipping. I remember him telling me that he liked my courage. That day was a rainy day. I was wet but he allowed me to sit on his leather sofa. He was very nice to me and he offered me a drink. He told me to organise a show and invite him. I was able to do that a few months later.  Thereafter, he offered me a deal. I am still signed to Sony Music 12 years after.

Why did you leave Nigeria?

I wouldn’t say I left Nigeria. I travelled out basically because of conditions beyond my control at that time. I didn’t have an easy childhood. There was a time I would want to hide that part of my life but I think I am older now. I need to open up because there are so many people out there who can benefit from my story.

Was your childhood that tough?

It was very tough. Growing up in a polygamous home is not easy and the issues that come with it especially being tagged a witch. It wasn’t an easy thing. A lot of things happened to me.

Were you abused by your step mother?

Spanking a child is not really a bad thing but when it gets out of control, it becomes a problem. When the person spanking you is actually enjoying it and doesn’t know the limit, then you have to go and save your life. You have to run away. I don’t need to get into details.

Was that what happened in your case?

Yes! I was maltreated a lot. It was bad. To be frank with you, it was bad. But it is okay now. I appreciate the lessons I learnt. I will never do that to my kids.

Couldn’t it be that you were so stubborn and they tried to correct you?

It wasn’t like that. I don’t really want to talk about it. I am fine now. But I tell you, the way my friends got trashed at home wasn’t the way I was trashed. They trashed me. Ah! They beat the living day light out of me. Ah! Lets’ even say it! We need to say it as it is! They dealt with me.

What kind of relationship do you have with your father and step mother now?

Well, we are good now.

Where was your mother all that time?

I didn’t grow up with my mother. That is another difficult story. She wasn’t there. I only met my mother at the age of 17 for the first time. That was when I was in Germany. I was there for a month and I was sent back. I had to find my level again.

How come we are yet to identify you with any guy?

I don’t know. There is nothing to talk about now. There is nobody for now.

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-- PoliticxGuru (m) at 12-08-2015 05:07PM
(14171 | Hero)

dis story too long na, anyways, she try