In late 2011, acclaimed East African vocalist and 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. Released in August 2014, this CD marks her
major label debut on Sony Music/OKeh Records and landed atop 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.
Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, African and jazz legacies are
always crucial to Somi's 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."
The Lagos Music Salon is the 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 that featured her longtime mentor and legendary trumpet
player Hugh Masekela.
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 Pérez, Idan Raichel, Jennifer Hudson, and many
more. In 2011, she released her first live album of performances at the venerable Jazz
Standard in New York City.
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 and 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
Somi and her band continue to perform at international venues around the world. In her
heart of hearts, she is an East African girl who loves family, poetry, and