The musician life involves plenty of travel. For most, this is simply the outcome of a drive to bring their art to as many people as possible. It requires a certain kind of patience traveling from city to city, country to country, and then waiting to return home.
For some like Miles Davis (Paris), Paul Simon (South Africa) and David Bowie (USA and Berlin), the extended journey itself provides the basis for a new direction or a rephrasing of their musical voice.
For a select few, like Chrissie Hynde or Nina Simone, their journey takes them to a new home that offers an outlet for expression. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, and an alumni of Rutgers University and UPENN, Akua Naru (nee Latanya Hinton) has all the sensibilities and confidence of a young American rapper. And her journey across the globe, from West Africa, to China and onto Europe has clearly shaped a unique talent.
Over the last ten years, her slow and soft style of poetry which covers love and relationships from a strong female perspective, has been coupled to biting and insightful observations on broader global and political issues.
While her hip hop American roots are deeply embedded in her music and flow, she is as comfortable in Cologne, her new home, as she is in Northwick Park or Sombor Serbia; just listen to the songs Black and Blues People, The Backflip and Honey (Sugar Ice Tea).
Since 2010, Akua Naru has regularly toured with her band who provide the cool, hypnotic beat that is evident in so much of her recorded material. To these ears, there’s something very reminiscent of the early music of Amy Winehouse about their style.
A year ago, Akua Naru played in Nottingham for the first time and left the audience warm in heart with music, but wiser to the pre-Brexit realities of political life in the UK. Near the end of the gig she called out then Prime Minister David Cameron for his hypocrisy in lecturing Germany that the ‘memory and the lessons of the Holocaust should never be forgotten’, but responding to requests from Jamaica for reparations related to the slave trade to simply ‘move on’. Only a Griot who has travelled and lived in different countries could connect these dots and tell the truth with such clarity.
For me, I hear the voices and experiences of Gil Scott Heron, Toni Morrison and Nina Simone deep in the music of Akua Naru. So, come witness for yourself the soulful impact of womens’ rights and global politics on this American abroad. Socrates.
Acoustickle and Saltbox Bar present an evening of hip hop, spoken word, jazz and soul with Akua Naru and the Ezra Collective on Sunday 21 May, 6pm, £13.20. Get tickets here.
Akua Naru website