Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, acclaimed vocalist & songwriter Somi has built a career of transatlantic sonicism and storytelling. Her latest album Holy Room - Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band (Salon Africana 2020) was recorded in an 18th Century German opera house in May 2019 and is currently nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her last studio album Petite Afrique (Sony 2017) was written as a song cycle about the African immigrant experience in the midst of Harlem’s gentrification in New York City and won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Petite Afrique is the highly anticipated follow-up to Somi's major label debut The Lagos Music Salon (Sony 2014) which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria and features special guests Angelique Kidjo and Common landed at #1 on US Jazz charts. Both albums were nominated for ECHO Awards in Germany for Best International Jazz Vocalist.
Closely mentored by the legendary trumpet player Hugh Masekela, Somi’s live performance was described by JazzTimes magazine as “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves,” while Billboard exclaims that she’s “all elegance and awe… utterly captivating.”
Recently venturing into theater, Somi was named a 2019 Sundance Theater Fellow for her original musical about the great South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba. The premiere production was shut down days before opening due to COVID-19.
Somi is a Soros Equality Fellow, a USA Doris Duke Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, a former Artist-in-Residence at Park Avenue Armory, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance, The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Baryshnikov Arts Center. She is also the founder of Salon Africana, a boutique arts agency and record label that celebrates the very best of contemporary African artists working in the music and literary arts. Also celebrated for her activism, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon asked Somi to perform at the United Nations’ General Assembly in commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. She was also invited to perform at Carnegie Hall alongside Hugh Masekela, Dave Matthews, and Vusi Mahlesela in celebration of South African democracy.
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.
January 12th, 2021 | 51 mins 52 secs
dreaming zenzile, glocal citizens podcast, holy room, jazz, leap transmedia, music, playwright, rwanda, salon africana, somi kakoma, songwriter, uganda, vocalist