All Night Long
NnekaStage on Sixth, March 17
Two years ago, politically minded Nigerian soul powerhouse Nneka played South by Southwest with a bum leg. This year, she showed up standing tall with a new album, Soul Is Heavy, and perhaps something extra to prove. Facing a time crunch and technical difficulties, however, Nneka first had to win a crowd swelled by fans of reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, who followed on the club's patio. She did so, with the help of her loud and proud band of New York players. Almost immediately, Nneka's huge vocal prowess, talent for freestyle rapping, and message of peace and justice impressed. She kicked off with "Lucifer (No Doubt)," a stabbing bit of electronic reggae from her new album that mixes a message of personal salvation with the singer's pungent political musings. After picking up a guitar and addressing microphone issues, she offered "Suffri," a song from her previous release Concrete Jungle, explaining that the title means "take it easy with my soul." She closed with an arresting, raw version of her new single, "My Home." With her time up and her message at stake, Nneka offered this homily: "The journey of change does not finish. Inside this room, the journey begins."