Grammy-nominated artist Somi (Chris Schwagga)

Grammy-nominated International Artist Somi has released a new album honoring legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba. The album is entitled Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba and celebrates groundbreaking South African singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba on her 90th birthday. Zenzile features special guests including Gregory Porter, Angelique Kidjo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Seun Kuti.

In February, Somi unveiled her new single, “Khuluma” featuring vocalist Msaki from Somi’s fifth studio album. Khuluma means ‘speak’ in Xhosa. Makeba first recorded the track in 1965 for her album Makeba Sings!, arranged by legendary South African artist and activist Hugh Masekela, who was a mentor of Somi’s. “The song tells the story of a woman asking her husband to explain why he gets home so late at night while their children are sleeping. The meaning, and perhaps the poetry of the song, is lost in translation, as it is really meant to reflect on the depressive conditions of Black life during the Apartheid era and how Black families were often fragmented as a result. An experience that Makeba herself deeply understood after surviving 31 years in exile.”

In addition to the release of Zenzile, Somi will grace the stage of the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem (NYC), March 19, for the theater’s Africa Now! Festival. “Somi and Friends: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba” will headline the Apollo’s annual festival. Special guests include jazz superstar Dianne Reeves, beloved South African diva Thandiswa Mazwai, and rising star singer-songwriter Msaki. Somi’s performance at the Apollo Theater will begin at 8:00 p.m on Saturday, March 19.

“I’m honored to celebrate the memory and music of Miriam Makeba on such a historic stage. In her autobiography, Makeba: My Story, Miriam reflects on her very first performance at The Apollo in September 1961 and all that it meant to her as a young African woman to sing in a place where so many great Black American voices she admired had stood before her. To me, that moment in her career speaks to the ability of her voice to connect and represent the Black experience from both sides of the Atlantic. It is that very generous community-building ethos in her work that has emboldened me to try to honor her life and voice in my own work. What a joy it is to have the opportunity to bring her story and spirit to Harlem, my longtime New York City neighborhood and a multi-generational nexus of global Black culture,” offers Somi.

Somi Kakoma is a GRAMMY®-nominated East African Jazz vocalist, songwriter, playwright, and actor of Rwandan and Ugandan descent. Her last album, Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band, was released shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and ultimately earned her a 2021 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. With that nomination, Somi became the first African woman ever nominated in any of the Grammy jazz categories. The album also won the 2021 NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Jazz Vocal Album category.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.

Follow The Burton Wire on Instagram or Twitter @TheBurtonWire. 

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