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Country Uganda USA Genres urban jazz roots Website www.facebook.com/somimusic Festival Sauti za Busara 2018 Recordings
If the Rains Come First, 2010; The Lagos Music Salon, 2014; Petite Afrique, 2017
Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Somi has built a career of transatlantic sonicism and storytelling. She continues to craft a fiercely original way of song-making that straddles the worlds of African jazz, soul, and pop with a newfound ease and a voice that Vogue Magazine simply calls “Superb!”
Petite Afrique, Somi’s 2017 release, is a daring, relevant, refashioning of what “jazz” and “African music” mean – both singularly and to each other. The album is a timely song cycle about the dignity of immigrants in the United States. Equally anthropologist and writer, Somi’s songs both celebrate Harlem’s black experience and lament gentrification’s slow erasure of the vibrant African immigrant population from the historic neighbourhood.
Petite Afrique was the highly anticipated follow-up to Somi’s earlier chart-topping album and major label debut entitled The Lagos Music Salon which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria and landed at #1 on US Jazz charts. The album, which featured special guests Angelique Kidjo and Common, draws its material from the tropical city's boastful cosmopolitanism, urgent inspiration, and giant spirit.
The Boston Globe proclaims that Somi’s latest work “is a sustained triumph displaying rich musicality, a sharp pop sense, and rare sophistication" while The Huffington Post dubbed the young singer "the New Nina Simone."
Singing in English and a wide range of African languages, her artistic evolution is indisputable. As her career has taken off, Somi’s talents have been called upon for collaborations and live performances alongside a diverse cast of artists including Mos Def, Baaba Maal, John Legend, Hugh Masekela, Aloe Blacc and many more. Currently, Somi is also developing an original play about the life and legacy of South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba.
Somi and her band continue to perform at international venues and stages around the world. In her heart of hearts, she is an East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom.This engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation.