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Spotlight

Somi

By Tad Hendrickson
Published March 13, 2007

While it’s clear that immigrants choose to leave their homelands with hopes of a new and/or better life, we often expect immigrant musicians to keep hold of the old traditions. But isn’t the point of leaving home to search for something new or a new way of living? New Jersey-based soul-jazz singer Somi thinks so: “What I am trying to is articulate in my music is a new tradition,” she says, “one that speaks to and resonates with other Africans who have been essentially raised in the West. I am trying to express what one might call a tradition of trans-nationalism.”

Because her father was part of the World Health Organization, the smooth, deep-voiced singer of Rwandese and Ugandan heritage moved around a lot as a kid, becoming a citizen of the world in the process. After studying cello in her youth, Somi switched to singing. Jazz, funk, soul, gospel and African music are all rolled into what she calls “holistic new African soul,” and she’s not afraid to shuffle line-ups to better explore different facets of her music. “I love playing with different players on different gigs because it always holds the possibility of pushing me into places beyond my comfort zone. To me, that just means an opportunity to constantly learn new things about my own instrument.” Already a veteran of tours and festival dates, Somi is releasing Red Soil In My Eyes in February 2007. A deeply personal album, it soars on the strength of her voice and maturity, no doubt taking this singer to the next phase of her career.