Version originale, en anglais dans le texte de notre rencontre avec Akua Naru à Marseille.
Akua Naru : barefoot poetry in the city
Friday, February the 20th, Akua Naru met us in a Marseilles hotel. The artist from New Haven was a little tired indeed, for her voice was hoarse and her eyes seemed blurred.
I could understand that Akua Naru was exhausted for she was very busy with the release of her new album « The Miner’s Canary », the shooting of a short movie and this evening concert at the Nomad’s Café. But she wished to do the interview even though she protected her energy through her breath and words.
Yet she offered to share some time with us.
Firstly, the new opus of the barefoot hiphop lady has just been published. The image of the canary which used to warn the miners in the pit from poisonous, odourless, invisible gas, deals with Akua’s position. The artist, with her naive mild look, is a pioneer in our society. She observes it, pointing at the dangers that threaten our humanity and she claims for love and benevolence all along her lines.
Akua Naru qualifies her album as politic as « The Journey Aflame » was noticed in 2011. More than that, she assumes it. When she talks about her writing, she points their « politics » meaning, instead of the lyrics. She does not write poems nor speeches. However, poetry is always here, deeply. Would it rise from the meeting of her almost activist words with her inner musical quality? It seems to be more than likely.
She told us that her music results from opportunities, sometimes wanted, but most of times unexpected. So, « the Miner’s canary » has been recorded between Paris, New York, Brussels, Sao Paulo and Zimbabwe. She wrote, composed and produced these sixteen news tracks. They are all wonderfully rich with the multiple shades of a travelling musical universe.
She invites the french public to listen to her new album specially through the very soft « Falling », a time resembling the grand « Poetry ».
Since the meeting, I listened again more carefully to the Miner’s Canary and now I can point out « Heard » as a clear hip-hop oldschool track which sounds strong to me, even though the album sails between the East Coast’s beats, free-jazz and soul.
Akua Naru … the movie
At the same time, Akua carries out a movie planned on the new album. She works closely with Terence Nance. According to her, Nance is a genius in the making of movies. With Yoann Cornu as producer, the short movie deals with love and translate into pictures « the Miner’s Canary ». There, Akua told us she is fond of Marseilles City where she chosed to shoot the movie. Surprised, we asked her why. Akua depicted the singleness of the phocean city, its people, its unrivaled light and climate. She felt kind of confident with the quietness of the mediterranean sea and the cultural places, that they were now the real setting of her movie. Akua plays in it a little part while real actors shot the story written by Nance. The movie was self-produced because of the lack of majors, so the staff has called for crowdfunding to develop the project. A new way of mutual sharing with the public, who helps somehow the independant artists.
Akua Naru is, I dare say, an artist of the new century and of the new world, a world that doesn’t know any physical frontiers, a world that lives on stages and on the opportunities of spontaneous productions. Akua uses the new technologies very smartly to break free from the major companies by connecting herself to her public. Moreover, some people of Marseille took part of the movie after the show that night.
Akua Naru … musical backgrounds
As we asked Akua what tunes she carries in her Ipod, she quoted immediately Chris Michelle’s featuring on Robert Glasper’s « Ah Yeah ». According to Akua, he is an artist whose sound is an exception. She appreciates all his Black Radio Sessions.
Then came our usual questions…
MusiK Please : Which track when you wake up ?
Jill Scott – The Real Thing
MP: What are the musical memories from your youth ?
Some gospel… Jesus is real by Reverent John P. Kee that her grandmother used to listen with her, later then went to church to see him live, a true and strong emotion.
MP: The sound of anger ?
That question puzzled Akua for she had never thought about it before. Yet, first she mentioned the album « Numbers » by Nicholas Payton, then a moment later, she talked about anger again, a theme evoked in Staind’s song Outside that she hummed.
MP: Which track for a lazy afternoon.
(easy) the Roots – Lazy afternoon
MP: And when you are in love ?
Akua smiled and said that she would not usually listen to her own songs, but she mentioned Poetry : how does it feel ? (let’s admit that it’s a jewel)
MP: Longing for dance ?
Mickael Jackson – Dont’ stop till you get enough, she answered immediately.
MP: And what about if it gets hot ?
Eric Bennet – Chocolate legs
MP: What tune made you cry ?
Akua hesitated and then she quoted some words from Oscar Brown’s poem « Betterman ». She also mentioned Nina Simone and her strong emotion listening to Four women. Finally, we asked her about the tunes that have played a great part in the early days of her musical career. Akua quoted Lauryn Hill with several tracks of the mythical « Miseducation » prevailing among her inspirations.
By the way and surprisingly we noticed the lovely performance of Tina Mweni at the Nomad’s Café concert that night : Tina, a young danish-kenyan singer who rapped in both languages. We were pleased with her coolness, her smile and her promising energy. As a gifted dancer, she did the show with her look alike Janelle Monae style !! And, please, do pay attention to her because she lives in Marseilles ! So… Big Up !
Words : Gab // Pics : Clotilde // Translation : Cecile & Gab