US-born Rwandan-Ugandan jazz vocalist, composer and songwriter Somi, real name Laura Kabasomi Kakoma, recently made history as the first African woman to be nominated in any of the Jazz categories and the first African artist to receive a nomination for the Best Jazz Vocal category for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards to be held on January 31, 2021.
Grammy nominated jazz vocalist and songwriter Somi
Following the nomination announcement of her latest album Holy Room the 39-year-old singer posted on social media, "[i]n this moment, I can't help but think of my parents and all that they sacrificed to make a life for us in this country, the villages and clans we come from in Uganda and Rwanda."
Somi's Grammy nominated album Holy Room:Live At Alte Oper was recorded in an 18th Century German opera house in May 2019 with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, one of the most innovative German jazz ensembles of all time. The album is an homage to the sacredness of cultural space and serves as a source of light, hope and courage during the unprecedented times the world has seen this past year. Somi's creative storytelling, sophisticated sounds and African roots deliver an absolutely beautiful body of work.
Her 2017 album Petite Afrique, was written as a song cycle about the African immigrant experience in the midst of Harlem's gentrification in New York City and won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. It was also the highly anticipated follow up to Somi's 2014 acclaimed major label debut The Lagos Music Salon, which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria and landed at the top of US and international jazz charts. Both albums earned her ECHO Award nominations in Germany for Best International Jazz Vocalist.
Somi is known for her wide ranging vocal technique, her original blend of modern jazz with African music, and the innate poetry of her songwriting that often gives voice to issues of social justice, transnationalism, womanhood and global constructions of Blackness. Mentored by the legendary musician Hugh Masekela, Somi is known for both her artistry and her activism. She is a Soros Equality Fellow, USA Doris Duke Fellow, TED Senior Fellow and a tireless champion of her fellow African artists. She is also the founder of boutique cultural agency and record label Salon Africana.
In her heart of hearts, Somi is an East Africa Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry and freedom. Somi said about her Grammy nomination, "[a]s a Black woman it makes me feel seen by my colleagues and it reminds me that the journey is never in vain." We will definitely be rooting for at the Grammys her on January 31.