In late 2011, acclaimed East African vocalist & songwriter Somi decided to move from New York City to Lagos, Nigeria for 18 months in search of new inspiration. The
result: a new album she calls The Lagos Music Salon was released in August 2014 as her major label debut on Sony Music/Okeh – landing at #1 on both the iTunes and Amazon Jazz Charts. The album material draws from the tropical city’s 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!” while The New York Times hails the album as “both serious and seductive.”
Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, the African and Jazz legacies are always crucial to her sound. Often referred to as a modern-day Miriam Makeba, JazzTimes magazine describes her live performance 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.”
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 self- penned story-based songs which debuted at #2 on the Billboard World Chart, and featured her long-time mentor & legendary trumpet player Hugh Masekela,. The Boston Globe proclaims her new album which features the likes of Common, Angelique Kidjo, and Ambrose Akinmusire “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.”
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, Billy Childs, Paul Simon, Danilo Perez, Idan Raichel, Jennifer Hudson and many more. In 2011, Somi released her first live album of performances at the venerable Jazz Standard in New York City. The result of which JazzTimes hailed as “stunning natural fervor and naked magnificence.” Most recently, Somi was the recipient of The Doris Duke Foundation’s French-American Jazz Exchange Composers’ Grant; she has since begun an exploration of African & Arab jazz traditions alongside acclaimed French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf while investigating the role of the female voice during the Arab Spring protests. That body of work recently premiered at The Kennedy Center’s 2014 Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival. Widely acknowledged as an arts scholar, Somi is a TED Fellow, an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, a 2013 Park Avenue Armory Artist-in-Residence, and the founder of New Africa Live, a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the very best of contemporary African artists working in the performance, visual, and literary arts. Last year, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited Somi to perform at the United Nations’ General Assembly.
Somi and her band continue to perform at international venues and stages around the world. Somi is currently an Artist-in-Residence at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. In her heart of hearts, she is an East African girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom.