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Nigeria singer's joy at Mobo win

Nneka Egbuna
Nneka's gritty style, haunting voice and political lyrics have won her a worldwide audience

Nigerian musician Nneka Egbuna has told the BBC of her surprise and excitement at winning the Best African Act at the Music Of Black Origin Awards.

"I hadn't even heard of the Mobos until two weeks ago," said the 27-year-old, who described herself as a daughter of Nigeria's troubled Niger Delta region.

"It will help more people hear about my music. But it's not about me it's the continent and its music," she said.

Her haunting voice and political lyrics have won her fans worldwide.

"It is Nigeria that has made me to who I am today," she said in her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony in Glasgow.

Warri is very rough place - there's a lot turmoil, a lot of tribalism, a lot of war - that has kind of strengthened me
Nneka

The singer says her influences include Nigeria's iconic Afro-beat performer Fela Kuti as well more contemporary acts like a US rapper Mos Def.

She also cites Nigeria writer and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa as an inspiration.

Mr Saro-Wiwa was executed by the Sani Abacha government in 1995 for his efforts to campaign against corruption in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

"Stand up against; corruption, against injustice, against bribery and hypocrisy.......RAISE UR VOICES," she says on her MySpace page.

'Inferiority complex'

Nneka, whose mother is German, grew up in the oil town of Warri and only went to Germany and met her mother at the age of 19.

Nneka album cover
Nneka's music paid for her university education

In her song Half Caste, Nneka addresses the difficulties of those who grow up as mixed-race children.

"They don't see themselves as black and they don't see themselves as white and they don't know how to handle the situation," she told the BBC's Network Africa.

She says her most recent song Heartbeat - which has become an internet hit - is "very political".

"It's about how the Western world has abused Africa and we have maintained a colonial mentality - we have this inferiority complex," she says.

Nneka herself has shown a steely determination to get where she is.

She initially played music to pay for her university education - she has a degree in anthropology and archaeology.

"It was never my goal to go into music, I just did music to keep me going - like a therapy," she says.

"I stepped out of Nigeria for the first time ever in 2000 without knowing the German language or anything about my German background.

"It was a culture shock - music became like God to me.

"I did music to finance my studies and I got a record deal two years later and that kind of brought change entirely and I was able to finish my studies very fast."

Although she does not see herself as an activist she says it is important to have a message in her work, which is perhaps a product of her upbringing.

"Warri is a very rough place - there's a lot turmoil, a lot of tribalism, a lot of war - that has kind of strengthened me.

"I always wanted to speak my mind and now I'm given the opportunity to do so on stages and by being able to produce the music."



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