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Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus
Flatbush between DeKalb and Willoughby
Ugandan, Rwandan and American jazz vocalist and composer Somi performs songs from her chart-topping album If The Rains Come First. Music giant Hugh Masekela talks with Somi about their shared musical influences and the connections between jazz and Africa. As a special treat, Masekela will sit in with Somi as she performs her new work.
A true multicultural woman, Somi was born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, then spent her early childhood in Zambia.
Encouraged by her mother’s love of song, Somi began singing herself, performing in church and eventually landing roles in her university’s musical theater productions. The African cultural legacy, always crucial to her sound, is as vital as ever in her current music, which Somi likes to call New African Soul, as well as the music she heard upon relocating to New York — American jazz singers like Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan are as essential to her artistic development as are the legendary African female voices of Miriam Makeba, Cesaria Evora and Sade. In January 2010, Somi’s critically-acclaimed latest album, If the Rains Come First, was rated number two on World Billboard charts.
Hugh Masekela is a celebrated trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer from South Africa. He has played primarily in jazz ensembles, with guest appearances on albums by The Byrds, and Paul Simon. His song, “Soweto Blues,” sung by his former wife, Miriam Makeba, is a blues/jazz piece that mourns the carnage of the Soweto riots in 1976. In 1987, he had a hit single with “Bring Him Back Home” which became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela.
In the 1980s, he toured with Paul Simon in support of Simon’s album Graceland. In 2003, Masekela was featured in the documentary film Amandla!, and in 2004, he released his autobiography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela, co-authored with journalist D. Michael Cheers. His most recent recordings include Live at the Market Theatre (2007) and Phola (2009).
Jessica Lynne and DéLana R.A. Dameron reflect on ways they make a home, creatively, wherever they are.