Past Performance
Baryshnikov Arts Center Presents


Sep 27, 2016

“The earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves.” - JazzTimes

Born in the American Midwest to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, vocalist and songwriter Somi draws inspiration from her multicultural background and international travels to create a lush Afro-beat straddling the worlds of jazz, soul, and pop. With powerful expressiveness and a unique style of melodic storytelling, she is hailed as a modern day Miriam Makeba.

Somi will perform songs from her repertoire, both old and new, joined by guitarist Nir Felder, pianist Toru Dodo, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Nate Smith. 

Somi is a BAC Resident Artist alumna.

Leadership support for music programming in 2016 provided by the Anne and Chris Flowers Foundation and the Thompson Family Foundation.

Artist Bio


Vocalist & songwriter Somi was born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda. The Huffington Post recently dubbed her “the new Nina Simone,” while NPR describes her as “an ambitious artist and superb jazz singer [who] creates an elegant amalgam of her bi-continental experiences.” 

Her latest recording effort and major label debut The Lagos Music Salon was released on Sony Music’s historic jazz imprint Okeh Records.  The album, inspired by Somi’s 18-month sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria, landed at #1 on US Jazz charts and earned her an ECHO award nomination for Best International Jazz Vocalist.  The New York Times hailed the album, which also features special guests Angelique Kidjo and Common, as “both serious and seductive.”
Somi is a TED Senior Fellow, an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, and was a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and The Robert Rauschenburg Foundation.  Known for both her activism and her artistry, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited Somi to perform for the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the International Day of Slavery.  Later that year, she performed alongside her long-time mentor Hugh Masekela at Carnegie Hall to celebrate 20 years of South African democracy. 

Somi is currently working on her next album (to be released in 2017) as well as a theater piece about Miriam Makeba.  In her heart of hearts, Somi is an East African Midwesterner who loves family, poetry, and freedom.
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