Somi: The Refashioning Jazz With A Homecoming Night

Written by Zeying Lang

Somi. (

This is a homecoming performance. As the music plays, memories flowing by. Born in Champaign, Illinois, the outstanding artist Somi is the first generation of immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda. Tonight, at her home town, with the fantastic jazz band, she tells her stories in her music about growing up as a descendant with African heritage.


Somi was born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, and she finished her first college degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She then gained a master’s degree from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Somi is a preeminent musician that creatively combines the “jazz” and “African music” in her new Album Petite Afrique (Sony Music). The album is related to her own experience —- the stories of African immigrants living in a gentrified Harlem in New York City. Her voice is described as “Superb!” by Vogue magazine. With the high quality of the refashioning music in this album, she won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Today’s performance was especially meaningful. As she mentioned in the stage, her mom and some of her friends from schools were sitting under the stage. Tonight, She came back to her hometown, Champaign, and shared her deep thoughts with those who grew up with her.

Tickets for the performance at Krannert Center for Performing Art. (Photo by Jiaxuan Meng)

The Show 🎻🎹🎤🎸🥁

As a singer, Somi is not alone when performing on the stage. There’s a fantastic jazz band accompanying her, and they acted as a whole. There are drums, piano, guitar, cello, violin, viola, and cello, that when they played as a team, they generate very harmony notes. As Somi was singing in the center of the stage, she made body grooves and some dance movements along with the music. I believe that those movements not only help express her feelings to the audience but also bring the listeners into the atmosphere that she created with her music. Between songs and songs, she also shared her own stories or the meaning behind the creation of melodies. What she shared is more than just some stories, but more like thoughts, ideas, and life philosophies. Somi also introduced her amazing jazz band members to the audience. The players for each instrument got their own time to do a solo to show off their advanced skills to the audience. Somi is a skillful storyteller. Her stories are not just told by the talks she gave during the transition time between songs, but also by the music she wrote and sang.

Before The Show. (Photo By Zeying Lang)

The Mood 🎵🍷🌃

I like the second last song of the performance. Though I don’t remember the name of the song, I do remember how I felt when I heard that song. I always feel like jazz is the music that makes the listeners relaxed. When I listened to that song, I couldn’t help myself imagine a scene in my head that really makes me feel eased: lying on a comfy couch with my friends and my cats, we were watching Friends on TV as the window’s open so that we feel the sprinkled rain and the breeze. With the dim purple light projected on the stage and the live jazz music mixed with the ‘superb’ voice, the performance of Somi’s team made me feel very relaxed on a Friday night.

The Performance. (Photo by Zeying Lang)

Want to know more about Somi, check out her official website:

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