February 15, 2021. As a first-generation American and the daughter of a Rwandan father and Ugandan mother, who was raised mostly in Champaign, Illinois and partly in Zambia, the vocalist Somi has long had to navigate multiple worlds and identities at once.
The easy narrative is to frame this as an opportunity to feel lost and constantly alienated in a world that’s constantly trying to classify. But Somi the musician has used her multiculturalism as her greatest asset; the vast breadth of her musical and cultural fluency makes it impossible for her to be placed in a discrete bin. And it makes it impossible for listeners of any race, ethnicity, age, and gender to engage with her music without finding something there that resonates deeply and personally.
If ever there were a formula for becoming a truly global superstar…
But Somi seems less interested in brand building and more interested in setting her truths to music, and stating them with forceful elegance from the place where she feels most comfortable—a packed concert hall’s stage. That’s why she’s titled this latest live album, her first backed by a big band, Holy Room.
The holy room here? Frankfurt’s famed old opera house, Alte Oper, in May 2019. It’s Somi presenting two sets of original compositions—most sourced from 2014’s The Lagos Music Salon and 2017’s Petite Afrique— arranged by John Beasley for the celebrated Frankfurt Radio Big Band, whom he also conducts.