Onukwuluâ€™s mother recognized her daughterâ€™s extraordinary vocal gifts early and encouraged her. â€œMy mother thought I was pretty decent and entered me into competitions,â€ she says. Onukwulu was seven when she began singing in regional talent contests in small towns in southern and northern B.C.
Ndidi is in the process of building a repertoire of traditional blues, combined with Malagasy and Nigerian music. â€œItâ€™s a new form of African bluesâ€, she says. She moved to Toronto, via New York, in 2000. Ndidi has been writing blues songs since she was 13. â€œI went through a lot of pain, and I found writing about it was a way to get it out,â€ she says.
Some of the songs sheâ€™s working on currently are about being alone and on the road, and feeling down. But she says, on the flip side, others are political and about â€œtaking on the world and trying to change itâ€. She admires Nigerian artist Sela Kuti, a political funk performer â€œwho influenced my thought processes.â€ Like him, she doesnâ€™t believe in writing a song unless thereâ€™s something there. â€œHey, There,â€ one of the songs she wrote for the talent search, is about growing old.
Onukwulu remembers listening to a lot of King Sunny Ade and His African Beats while she was growing up. Adeâ€™s band plays a spacey, jamming sort of juju, a style of Nigerian popular music characterized by tight vocal harmonies and intricate guitar work, and backed by traditional talking drums and percussion instruments.
Nigerians typically write about â€œconstant struggleâ€ in their music, Onukwulu says, which has influenced her songwriting. That theme is also present in the songs of blues artists, including her influences, Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Jones, R.L. Burnside and Willie Dixon.
Singing is the best way she can convey what she is trying to express.The voice is â€œa very powerful and affective instrument. You can express so much through your voice. People are more attuned to hearing a voice. They can hear it more passionatelyâ€.
Ndidi Onukwulu is an eclectic performer who hasnâ€™t confined herself to blues or blues-related music, or to African-based music. Her future is bright.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Horn Blower
3. Wicked Lady
4. Hey There
7. May Be the Last Time, I Don't Know
8. Seen You Before
9. Old Heart
11. Long Way Home