Tag Archives: African Music

Somi: A Refreshing Story told through Jazz

On Valentine’s Day, Somi sung songs from her previous albums at the Krannert Center.

Written by Weon Taek Na

My ticket and description book to Somi
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An Emotional Musical Performance by Somi

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

The stage is set as the audience files in for the show.

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.

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Somi: The Refashioning Jazz With A Homecoming Night

Written by Zeying Lang

Somi. (https://krannertcenter.com/events/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.

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Somi:“the voice kissed by the God”

Somi, a vocalist and songwriter, brought a brilliant jazz performance with her band on Friday,
February 14, 2020, at Colwell Playhouse, Krannert Center.

Written by Bingchen Li

At this romantic Friday, Somi and her band brought a brilliant jazz performance to the Colwell Playhouse. On this special day, we can witness lots of young and elder couples watched this show with a loved one, what a meaningful date!

Somi was born in Champaign, Illinois, and her latest album Petite Afrique won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. She is an amazing story-teller and she combines African music element to the jazz that you can hear the calling sound from an African tribe and

Somi and her amazing band
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Somi’s Jazz: telling her story

By Jiaxuan Meng

“African grooves, supple jazz singing, and compassionate social consciousness; she is both serious and seductive. ” – The New York Times

Somi , an American singer, and songwriter.

Somi, an American Jazz singer who was born in Champaign, IL, gave her appealing performance on Feb.14th 2020 at Krannert Center for Performing Arts. She has built a career of transatlantic sonics and storytelling. Her album, telling her story of being an African immigrant family won a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. She has been recognized as “the quintessential artist citizen of the world”.

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Somi: A Blend of Beats and Activism

By Tyler Tubbs


Laura Kabasomi Kakoma, better known as Somi, provides a striking combination of art and activism in her own brand of slinky, story-telling jazz that incorporates traditional African elements.

Somi’s eight band members prepare for the show by tuning their instruments onstage.

Somi interacted with each of her band members individually in the form of either a solo performance for the member or a duet between the two. Her frequent interactions with the band gave the performance an informal tone, open for a conversation between the artists and the audience. While the audience’s participation in this conversation was mostly metaphorical, Somi seized the opportunity to speak about herself, her beliefs, and issues facing the African and African-American community both conversationally and lyrically.

Somi and her drummer perform an encore duet.

Somi performed a style of slower, story-telling jazz infused with traditional African nuances. In just one show, Somi was able to use her music to describe many issues facing African-Americans and women around the world. The story-telling element of her music allows her to capture the essence of the common person’s struggle and emotion. This connection elicits similar emotional responses in the audience, empathizing with those who share the strife portrayed in the music while simultaneously providing a lens of understanding for those who may never experience such confrontation.

A well-deserved standing ovation following Somi’s performance

Following Somi’s performance, the auditorium erupted in praise. After such a powerful performance, one can not help but to try to relive their favorite moment of it. For me, that moment was her song “Two Dollar Day” which follows the story of a widowed mother in Nigeria after the government protests over oil. This was such a tremendously powerful song because it reminded me of the struggle that single parents all around the world and in the U.S. face on a daily basis. “Two Dollar Day” is a beautiful tribute the countless sacrifices that single parents make.

Thanks for reading! Check back next week for a fresh blog on the performance of Anna Deavere Smith!

An Internal Journey: Music from Mozambique (makeup event)

On February 1st, Nyttu Chongo, a young musician from Mozambique, along with Jason Finkelman, gave a one-hour wonderful concert of music from Mozambique in the auditorium of the Spurlock Museum.

Written by: Yushan Guo

To perform music from Mozambique, the performers employed lots of traditional musical instruments, such as timbila, djembe, kankubwe, and so on. Each of them has a unique and arresting sound. The stage was designed in a very simple fashion. And there were no dazzling lighting effects, just the two performers playing music. In this way, the audiences would fully indulge themselves in the beauty of the music itself.

This photo was taken 2 minutes before the concert began. You can see that there are many exquisite traditional musical instruments.

After a brief period of greetings and introductions, Nyttu and Jason soon began to perform the first song. Nyttu called this song “Peace”, saying that this is the song that helped him searching for the inner self. The instrument he played was an m’bira, an instrument that looked like a thumb piano and produced a very light and crisp sound that sounded like tiny murmurs of a brook. The instrument that Jason played was kankubwe, a large bow-like instrument that produced a relatively heavier sound. I might not understand the specific cultural values behind this song. However, the two performers worked with each other in such a perfect fashion that the song was not only mentally soothing but also brought everyone in the auditorium to a deeper state of a peaceful mind.

After a short talk between Nyttu and Jason as a short intermission, Nyttu picked up a different instrument. They started to perform a song that was relatively more rhythmic than the last one. As an audience, I have to admit that I have little experience with the world music genre. The kinds of music I listen to the most are progressive rock and progressive metal. However, I was surprised to detect that several common elements exist between this music and the music that I usually listen to. The most obvious one is the use of flexible rhythmic patterns. This truly caught my focused attention. Speaking broadly, it was the free and creative expression of Nyttu’s music that truly captured me.

Nyttu Chongo and Jason Finkelman playing music.

In the very last part of this concert, Nyttu changed his instrument into a timbila, which looked sort of like a xylophone but was slightly larger. And Jason changed his instrument into a djembe. The last song they performed was quite a rhythmical and upbeat one. The music was very contagious that lots of the audiences could not help nodding their heads, clapping their hands or tapping their feet along with the beat. After Nyttu’s fervid invitation, some audiences went from their seats to the stage and started to dance along with the song. It was beautiful to see that people from different age or ethnic groups were amazed by the energy of the music. Finally, the concert ended in a bright and cheerful atmosphere. Nyttu and Jason worked perfectly to deliver a concert that captured the audiences and brought them into an internal journey to seek the self deep within their minds.

This was the very last part of the concert. Some audiences were dancing along with the music.

For more information regarding this event or the Spurlock Museum, please visit: https://www.spurlock.illinois.edu/events/event.php?ID=1760