Ndidi Onukwulu
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Ndidi Onukwulu


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"Review - Exclaim, National"

Ndidi Onukwulu
The Contradictor
By Rachel Sanders

The smooth, velvety blues of Ndidi Onukwulu’s 2006 debut disc, No I Never, have been whisked away on her second album by a whirl of bombastic jazz and pop. Onukwulu pushes her boundaries this time around, bringing sassier vocals, brighter and brassier arrangements, and a generally cheekier sensibility to The Contradictor. Jazz trumpet, strings (courtesy of Jesse Zubot) and searing electric blues riffs from Steve Dawson and Paul Pigat give greater depth and scope to her compositions, providing a more ornate setting for her exceptional voice, which blazes with more confidence than ever before. Onukwulu has exchanged the granola for glam and put together a sophisticated, surprising and surefooted sophomore album. Yes indeedy, this is seriously heady stuff. (Jericho Beach)

- Exclaim

"Review - FFWD, Calgary"

Ndidi Onukwulu - The Contradictor
Jericho Beach Music

Published June 12, 2008 by Jason Lewis in CD Reviews

Ndidi Onukwulu is best known for being a blues artist, but that has never been the best way to describe her work. Given that her latest album, The Contradictor, was made with the help of jazzy roots dudes Jesse Zubot and Steve Dawson, you can bet that the definition of the blues is going to be stretched to its absolute limit. Her acoustic cover of “He Needs Me” has a charming vintage flair, “The Lady & E” is a pretty, minor-key pop number complete with subtle string arrangements, “Forever S2” has a Bourbon Street shuffle, “Cry All Day” has cocktail lounge charm and “Almost JD” lays down shimmering phased guitar leads over a gentle surf beat. Onukwulu’s beautiful smoky voice stacks up to any of the blues greats, but what’s truly impressive is how well it works with any kind of song. Does all this genre-hopping work? The answer is yes, Ndidi.


"REVIEW - A 'n' E Vibe"

Artist: Ndidi Onukwulu
Album: The Contradictor

Reviewed by: Tessa Perkins (Vancouver Correspondent - Canada)

The Contradictor is an apt title for Ndidi Onukwulu's (in-DEE-DEE on-NOO-kwoo-loo) second album because these songs are quite a bit different than her last batch, and they do tend to contradict themselves in terms of genre. This album contains songs that seem to be a mix of many styles in one whereas the last one was a mix of songs of different styles.

Ndidi seems to have become more comfortable with her genre experimentation on this record, as well as becoming a more serious and dedicated artist. Onukwulu is generally classed as a blues singer due to her silky voice and the instruments used in her music, but there is much more to this singer-songwriter than that. Although some of her songs are upbeat and optimistic, there are also ones dealing with pain and deeper emotions. "I have a dark side," says Ndidi, "and I look at things sometimes from a skewed perspective, which I'm able to tap into. I don't like to shy way from deep emotions. I don't really have any secrets. I don't hide." Of Nigerian descent, one would expect to find some signs of this in her music. It turns out her heritage has a minimal influence on her musical style, but it does help to give her the spirit which she feels is inherent in blues: "Blues is the music of the people, of the earth, of the oppressed." With such a varied personality and such a versatile voice, it is no wonder Onukwulu has won the hearts of many.

There is an odd theme in the titles of her songs; all but four contain letters of the alphabet that seem to have no connection to the title such as "SK Final" and "Almost JD," but the titles seem to fit as the music is also a sort of mix of disconnected fragments that all somehow go together. With everything from country, to rock, to jazz, to big band all rolled into one nice musically pleasing package, Ndidi has changed the meaning of blues and opened the genre up to interpretation.

- A 'n' E Vibe

"Review - Planet S, Saskatoon"

by Stephen LaRose


When Ndidi Onukwulu comes to the Regina Folk Festival this summer it will be in the wake of probably the best blues and jazz album released anywhere in the world this year — and definitely one of the best albums ever made by a Canadian.

It’ll be interesting to see if — and how — she lives up to the promise of her sophomore album, The Contradictor.

Ndidi (her name’s pronounced “in-DEE-DEE on-NOO-kwoo-loo”) is billed as a blues singer, which is accurate — to a point. She wrote or co-wrote 11 of the album’s 12 songs, so she’s not a tired revivalist or somebody’s puppet. She’s got a smoky, earthy voice like Billie Holliday, but her music … what can you call it? There’s elements of everything — Sly Stone, Motown, Django Reinhardt, Afropop, ragtime, Kurt Weill, even ZZ Top, or maybe the artists who influenced ZZ top. It’s not easy to define what her music is; it’s easier to define what her music isn’t — and it certainly isn’t boring or artificial.

It’s a rare album that doesn’t possess at least one clunker — the tune that makes you hit the fast forward button on your IPod — but I haven’t found one. Indeed, the songs flow like a musical geography lesson, interesting stops all along the way.

I’m supposed to write 300 words on this, but screw it. Musical genius can’t be written about — it can only be heard. And if Onukwulu’s not a musical genius, she’ll fit the bill until someone else comes along. Go out and buy the damn thing or download it somewhere. And pull up a patch of grass at the Regina Folk Festival. In a perfect world, she’ll be the face and voice of the Canadian music scene for the next few years.

- Planet S

"Review - Regina Leader Post"

The Contradictor

Ndidi Onukwulu

Jericho Beach Music

Rating 3 (out of five)

To me, it's a telling sign when an arist is referred to as a blues singer in some circles and a jazz artist in others.

Ndidi Onukwulu might not be a household name, but for those who pay attention to the indie blues and jazz scenes in Canada, she's caused more than a ripple. Her confident performances and swooning, unique voice have meant that her demand is growing at venues that feature soulful, dynamic music. Case in point: She's on the schedule for this year's Regina Folk Festival.

The Contradictor will help build the reputation for this singer of Nigerian descent.

There are sweet, bouncy numbers that are supported by top-flight production and smooth songs reminiscent of American blues from the 1940s.

There's plenty borrowed from other genres, from bluegrass to country to ragtime and everything in between without having it sound like a meandering collection of hits and misses.

It sure sounds like Onukwulu has created a sound all her own -- let's hope she continues to develop it for years to come.

-- Andrew Matte

- Regina Leader Post

"Review - Eye Magazine, Toronto"

Casually labelled a blues singer after her first solo record No, I Never, Ndidi Onukwulu has overcome the genre’s limitations by hot-wiring disparate influences into a powerful follow-up. With hints of Nashville sheen, Dixieland whimsy, jazz ballads and classic-rock energy, The Contradictor teeters between the studio prowess of producer Steve Dawson and the experimental aspirations of its avant arrangers JP Carter and Jesse Zubot. While Onukwulu’s pipes bind together this all-things-at-once approach, sometimes even the most elaborate orchestrations struggle against the intensity of her smoky voice. And as much as I appreciate the skronk-out at the end of “Rise,” I’m more impressed by her Harry Nilsson cover.

- Eye Magazine

"Review, Now Magazine, Toronto"

Ndidi Onukwulu

The Contradictor (Jericho Beach)

By Lucie Davies
As her bio proclaims, Ndidi Onukwulu is first and foremost a blues singer. It’s certainly clear from her second album that the Toronto-?based BC native’s not operating under false pretences. There are tinges­ of funk, soul and rock ’n’ roll, but with a voice like Onukwulu’s, there’s no fooling – this is raw, earth-?shaking blues.

Honing her songwriting, Onukwulu takes on the role of soothsayer, wronged woman and defiant siren in the course of these dozen tracks, from the surprisingly jaunty lament Forever SZ to the rocky Boogie, co-?written with guitarist Paul Pigat.
- Now Magazine


No, I Never (2006) - Jericho Beach Music
The Contradictor (2008) - Jericho Beach Music



There are voices that demand we listen to them. Not to their words necessarily, but to
their tone, to the emotional undercurrent that carries with it the soul of the speaker.
Ndidi Onukwulu is one of those voices and she sings to bring us back to sounds of our insides. Lyrics reminiscent of the rattling thoughts found in the back of our minds
layer in and around organically ground sounds.

She sings of her life experience so convincingly the audience is set to wonder if they
too grew up wandering the dense forests of B.C’s most lonely mountain towns. This
may be the reason behind her winning the Maple Blues New Artist of the Year award
in January of 2007, representing as she does a distinctly Canadian experience; standing astride lines blurred between contrasting cultures and heritages. Born of a Nigerian father and a German mother her lineage, like her music, explores the globe then brings it back home. Her gypsy journey has collected a diverse range of sounds and styles which she weaves into an orchestration strong enough to support her strong lyrics and relentless vocals.

As varied as her influences may be they culminate in an expression of the blues that
is undoubtedly Ndidi. On her debut No, I Never, Ndidi Onukwulu proved she can wrap her silky voice around anything from country blues to her own rootsy salon sound. Now we have The Contradictor, all about focus, training that formidable silk edge on everyone's private pain, and contradicting the anguish with a full, upbeat, resonance.

The Contradictor is personal and universal, built on Ndidi's songwriting mining the extremes of intimacy, with the bigger sounds and tones she is most interested in uncovering. These are songs of heartache, heartbreak, and longing. 'Not nice,' as she says, but as full as these can be. And as rich.

The album opens with the brass-laden 'SK Final,' and moves breathlessly to the anthemic 'The Lady & E.' Other standouts are 'Rise,' which hearkens back to the blues of Ndidi's first release, and 'No Everybody,' that sneaks an anti-conformity rock message under a reggae opening.

Joining Ndidi on the CD is a fearsome roster of world-class players: including Jesse Zubot (strings/mandolin), Paul Pigat (guitars), Steve Dawson (guitars), Roey Shemesh& Darrin Parris (bass), Barry Mirochnick &Skye Brooks(drums) and Tyson Naylor&Chris Gestrin ( keyboards). Dawson produced the CD with Zubot producing some of the tracks.
Ndidi has recently been nominated for a JUNO award for her record "The Contradictor".