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Meshell Ndegeocello focuses on present and future, not past

for Journal Register Newspapers

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Next year marks 20 years since Meshell Ndegeocello brought her provocative, genre-blending music to the world on her debut album, “Plantation Lullabies.” But she hasn’t started baking a cake to celebrate yet.

“I don’t have that kind of personality,” says Ndegeocello, 43, who was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Berlin and raised in Washington, D.C. “I don’t look very far forward, and I rarely look back. I’m just trying to experience the now — although it is interesting to look back and chuckle — and say I only hope I’ve gotten better.”

Ndegeocello is, however, looking back a bit on her next album, “For a Sovereign Soul,” a collection of Nina Simone songs that’s due out Oct. 9. The set includes renditions of Simone favorites such as “Feeling Good,” “Feline Woman,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” as well as her interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.”

And Ndegeocello intends it as nothing less than a tribute and celebration of an artist she greatly admires.

“She has an interesting story as a human being and made such a great contribution, musically, so I thought it would be exciting to do,” says Ndegeocello, who’s been performing “a couple” of the Simone songs live “just to see how it feels. I just thought I’d somehow put my spin on them and hopefully reignite some interest in her.”

Meshell Ndegeocello and Sin Hielo perform at the Concert of Colors at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 7, in New Center Park, W. Grand Blvd. at Second Avenue, Detroit. Admission is fee. Call 313-624-0215 or visit www.concertofcolors.com.

Web Site: www.concertofcolors.com

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