A documentary about indie group the National, presented at this year's Tribeca Film Festival
Credited with kick-starting the “neo soul” movement and with 10 Grammy nominations behind her, American singer Meshell Ndegeocello returns with a tribute to one of the queens of Afro-American music Nina Simone. With one of the richest voices in the business and only a few months after her critically aclaimed album Weather, her new album Pour Une Ame Souveraine (For a Sovereign Soul) explores the songs Nina Simone wrote or had written for her.
Ndegeocello, who was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in 1968 but changed her surname to Ndegeocello which she says means “free as a bird” in Swahili, has long been an admirer of Nina Simone who she says made a major contribution for the fight for equal rights in the US. She wanted success, was pressured to make hits, but her own sound was still irrepressible,” explains Meshell. “She had things to say, she protested. She was a loud, proud black, female voice during a time when black female voices were not encouraged to make themselves heard.”
She says her greatest challenge was to make Pour Une Ame Souveraine as much about her own interpretation as honoring Simone. To help her do so she recruited and impressive roster of singers including Sinead O’Connor, Lizz Wright, Valerie June, Tracy Wannomae, Toshi Reagon and Cody ChesnuTT.
The classics are all there, from Please Dont’Let Me Be Misunderstood to House Of The Rising Sun. The result seems to be the best of both worlds, retaining the essence of Nina Simone while remaining unmistakably Meshell Ndegeocello. Her co-producer Chris Bruce sums it up: “Nina was always exploring and experimenting, and quite cathartic … we wanted to tap into that same creative spirit and make the songs our own. And in the end hopefully have something we feel she would appreciate and feel pride.”