Laura Kabasomi, or Somi, speaks and sings from the heart as she entertains the audience with stories and music inspired by her African heritage.
-By Daniel Holley
This performance was as much about music as it was about a story. Between musical performances with her talented ensemble, Somi spoke to the audience about what inspires her to write and sing. As a child of African immigrants, clashing cultures and racial tension has always been a challenge for her. However, she finds strength in her heritage, and uses it to connect in similar situations. As a current resident of Harlem, New York, the largely African community helps her establish confidence in her identity, and this confidence is apparent in her powerful vocals.
The themes of unity and community were reinforced heavily throughout the performance in dance and motion as well. Several of Somi’s ensemble had the opportunity to deliver a solo performance, after which Somi prompted the audience to applaud them. At other times she made prolonged eye contact with them while dancing, showing that there was a strong connection between them. Somi also gave credit to members of her family who supported her over the years. Subtle motions and actions like these helped the audience understand how important a sense of community is to her, and allowed us to relate to her closer as well.
My favorite song Somi performed was among her final ones where she sang about the importance of being present. Lyrics of the song along the lines of “If this was my last song, would you pay more attention to me?” did in fact make me pay closer attention. I found myself sitting more forward and focusing more intensely on the visual aspect of her performance than I had previously. I also thought this was her farewell song, so her lyrics were definitely true for me.
Of the three performances I have seen so far, this one held my attention the most because it was the easiest to follow. The Butterfly Lovers and Drumfolk both used motion and dance to convey emotion and elements of story, which made some parts ambiguous or unclear to me. By speaking between her songs, Somi made it very clear the emotions and influences her music was trying to convey. Though some may argue leaving some interpretation to the audience would be beneficial, I think clearly defining meanings can make a performance more relaxing.
All in all, this was a very entertaining and emotional performance. Somi and her band are all very talented musicians, but the true performance came from the sense of community and cultural pride Somi instilled in her every movement and vocalization. You could tell this was a very personal performance for her, and that she meant every word of what she said. I hope I am able to see similar demonstrations of raw emotion in other performances this semester.