Exultant joy, vibrant color and festive pageantry are the succulent ingredients to the multicultural gumbo served by world music artist Onyeka Nwelue on his newly released single from Walboomers Music and La Cave Musik, “Quimbombó.” While the song knitting together African and Mexican music, dance and culture celebrates freedom, Nwelue himself is confined to a chair in the accompanying video, presiding over the festivities from afar, symbolizing the isolation of his mental health challenges.
“Quimbombó” will be the title track to Nwelue’s debut album, which is slated to arrive on January 31, his 36th birthday. Earlier this month, the highly decorated scholar, author, filmmaker and poet released his first musical foray, a single and video titled “Break Your Heart.” The song was inspired by his controversial dismissal from the University of Oxford earlier this year, a much-publicized split that Nwelue characterizes as full of misinformation, manipulation, political and racial bias. He recorded the track in Puebla, Mexico while undergoing treatment, finding that jazz helps calm and focus his mind. Comfortable taking his struggles public, he said that all the songs for the new album are about his mental health and life challenges.
The next chapter previewing the album places Nwelue in a role similar to a classic Quincy Jones joint or in a more present-day context, that of DJ Khaled. He wrote the song with longtime friend Obinna Okoro (aka Achara man), which was produced by Clément Chuks Simon (aka Lugi). Achara man and Lugi have strong vocal presences on “Quimbombó.” The single is a rich and exotic culturally diverse recording combining infectious Africano beats with Mexican Ranchera instrumentation. Splashes of urban groove and experimental jazz are also in evidence.
As Mexican dancers spin, turn and gyrate throughout the video, Nwelue grooves in his chair, an observer of the human condition. The party spills out into the streets, erupting into a joyous sea of humanity, yet Nwelue remains separate and apart. He sets the pulse that moves and touches the world yet he himself is unable to join in. Ironically, he describes the single as “a way of showing how free I am.”
While Nwelue prolifically crafts music for the “Quimbombó” collection – he’s plotting to drop a third single in early September - his next book, “The Nigerian Mafia: Mumbai,” will be published in India on October 1. On that same day, Nwelue begins a new position as the director of Africa Center Mexico in Puebla. He’s had academic affiliations with many of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning that span the globe, including Cambridge, Université Queensland, Harvard University, University of Johannesburg, University of Manipur and University of Hong Kong.