Every so often, an opportunity comes our way, that is too good to let pass us by. The opportunity to host singer-songwriter Somi is the epitome of such an occasion. This coming Thursday at Jazz re:freshed, we have the pleasure of witnessing Somi’s famed live show at Mau Mau and it promises to be another classic for the Jazz re:freshed faithful.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing or witnessing this East African talent, read on…
One year ago, acclaimed East African vocalist & songwriter Somi decided to move to Lagos, Nigeria in search of new inspiration. The result: a new album she calls The Lagos Music Salon that will be released in June 2013 and features a guest appearance by superstar Angelique Kidjo. Working alongside the totally blind yet absolutely brilliant Nigerian producer Cobhams Asuquo and the multitalented American composer Keith Witty, Somi has written a body of new work that draws from Lagos’ boastful cosmopolitanism, urgent inspiration, and giant spirit – straddling the worlds of African jazz, soul, and pop with a newfound ease and a voice that Vogue Magazine simply calls “Superb!”
Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, the African and Jazz legacies are always crucial to her sound. Often compared to the likes of Miriam Makeba and Sarah Vaughn, Somi was curious about how the move back to the African continent might shift her musical perspective and lyrical inspiration. Her new material strives to transcend diasporic romanticization and instead privilege “inside-out” cultural nuance and social narrative. Over the past year, Somi has been able to both locate and articulate that nuance and, indeed, has new stories to share. Mostly drawn from her Lagos travel journal, the songs highlight the musical conversation Somi is having with the city as she contemplates both the ordinary and profound experiences of Lagos living.
The Lagos Music Salon is a highly anticipated follow up to the young singer’s last studio album, If The Rains Come First (ObliqSound) – a stunning collection of selfpenned story-based songs which debuted at #2 on the Billboard World Chart and of which The Boston Globe said “glistens with the sheen of an almost impossibly perfect cosmopolitanism.” Singing in English, Yoruba, and Nigerian Pidgin, her artistic evolution is indisputable.
JazzTimes magazine describes her live performance as “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves,” while Billboard calls it “all elegance and awe…utterly captivating.” As her career has taken off, Somi’s talents have been called upon for collaborations and live performances alongside Bobby McFerrin, Baaba Maal, John Legend, Cassandra Wilson, Mos Def, Paul Simon, Idan Raichel, Jennifer Hudson, and many more. Last year, Somi recorded and released her first live album at the legendary Jazz Standard in New York City to critical acclaim.
Somi was also named a 2011 TED Global Fellow, an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, and is the founder of New Africa Live, a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating the very best of contemporary African artists working in the performance, visual, and literary arts.
For more information, check here.