Saturday, October 3, 2009

soul food: an evening with Somi

a couple of weeks ago, jazz enthusiasts in kigali flocked to the beautiful shokola for an intimate performance by somi, a rwandan/ugandan new york-based soul-afrobeat-jazz vocalist. from the day i discovered somi, five years ago, she has been an integral part of my afropolitan soundtrack. her homage to home is a constant thread that runs through all her works, and she consistently embraces her roots while acknowledging all of the other influences that have shaped her into the artist she is today.

shokola--a cafe/restaurant that effortlessly blends african tradition with contemporary design--provided not only a venue, but a setting an ambience that was a crucial ingredient to the intimacy of the show. surrounded by small bonfires and rustic lamps hanging from age-old trees, the crowd gathered under the venue's signature Bedouin tents on sofas, around tables, on cushions, and sat on whatever space was available in eager anticipation; thirsty for truly good music.

the show was a blend of songs from jazz classics, to somi's own older material, to a preview of her new album. she began with 'ingele', an afro-jazz hit from her first album red soil in my eyes, which was followed by nat king cole's 'nature boy' and later by her bluesy interpretation of a reggae classic, bob marley's 'waiting in vain'.

the set was all-too-brief, and concluded with a track from her latest album if the rain comes first in which she sang of returning home: 'home is where you know you can always touch your feet to the floor.'

it was a powerfully moving performance and the a capella rendition of nina simone's 'feeling good' left the crowd hungry for more. it is still rare to have such an enormous talent in such a perfect setting, and it was a refreshing preview of what is on the horizon of the arts scene in kigali.



Joan said...

excellent review! u really captured the moment

Joan said...

excellent review. u really captured the moment