“I love to Celebrate Freedom in whatever context”, Somi


somi8-sm“I love to celebrate freedom in whatever context”, says Somi, an American singer/songwriter of Rwandan and Ugandan descent.

She spent much of her young life, first in Zambia, then in many other African countries while working for an aid organization for children orphaned by AIDS. These experiences-and her Afro-American duality-are aptly exploited in her songs. Blessed with an exceptional voice covering a four-octave range, Somi is an artist in the pure tradition of great black Jazz singers.

Somi was born in Champaign, Illinois while her father was completing post-doctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When Somi was three years old, her family then moved to Ndola, Zambia while her father worked for the World Health Organization. They returned to Champaign, Illinois in the 1980s when her father became a professor at the University of Illinois.

ChampaignSubsequently, Somi spent the rest of her childhood in Champaign where she attended both University Laboratory High School and Champaign Central High School, and earned her undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and African Studies from the University of Illinois.

After graduation, Somi spent a year doing medical anthropological research while working with AIDS orphans in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Somi moved to New York City in August 1998 and soon became a fixture on the underground Soul circuit. After several short productions, she independently released her first album entitled Eternal Motive (2003) on her own label SanaaHouse Productions. The album was co-produced by David “Sampsonic” Sampson and was once largely-out-of print, but was re-issued in 2008 for digital distribution. Somi received a Master’s degree at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Performance Studies while she began recording music for her second album Red Soil In My Eyes.

Somi3Known in music industry circles for her tenacity and self-promotion, Somi’s original and hybrid sound began to garner international attention from both Jazz and World music audiences.

She calls this fusion of an African flavor into Jazz as “holistic New African Jazz”.
FIND SOMI HERE: www.somimusic.com

In 2007, SanaaHouse Productions licensed Red Soil In My Eyes to the Harmonia Mundi/World Village label for her first international distribution deal. The record received wide critical acclaim with the hit single Ingele that maintained a Top 10 position on U.S. World Music Charts for several months. In 2009, Somi signed with independent record label ObliqSound.

Her label debut If The Rains Come First released in North America on October 27, 2009 and subsequently debuted at #2 on Billboard Magazine’s World Music Chart. The album features Grammy winning South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela as a guest on one track. Additional featured musicians include Michael Olatuja, Madou Kone, Herve Sambe, Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Alicia Olatuja, and others. The album was co-produced by Michele Locatelli and Michael Olatuja. Recording sessions took place in both Paris and New York.

Somi performed at a concert on Friday, 22 March at the General Assembly Hall.

The concert pays tribute to the emancipation of slaves as this year marks many key slavery abolition anniversaries in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and, Latin America including the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. Beng Poblete-Enriquez sat down with Somi before the rehearsals.

Somi says “Freedom means the ability to manifest all of whom you are at any given moment”.

New photography book sheds light on life after slavery

somi book-emancipationA new book of photographs depicts the strengths and resilience of African Americans following emancipation from slavery in 1863.

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery‘ is the work of two American professors, Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer.

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery
Museum director Lonnie Bunch discusses with Deborah Willis, Ph.D. (chair, Department of Photography & Imaging, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University) her latest work, Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery. Through rare photographs and documents, the book focuses on Black enslavement, emancipation, and life from 1850-1930. Book signing followed.

RADIO HERE: WOMEN13-2013 – Dianne Penn spoke to the authors who were at the UN for a book signing. Dr. Willis starts by explaining that the book began with a single photograph of a remarkable woman called Dolly.



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