Somi in Vogue

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Tuesday June 08, 2010

From Vogue

By: Jenna Lundin

An alluring collection of stories encased in a soft and steady rhythm, the third album by Somi—If the Rains Come First (ObliqSound)—marks a departure for this pioneer of a new and promising generation of emerging African artists. “I used to feel I had to separate my music into either African or jazz or soul,” she explains. “This album feels like all three of those together.” It also conveys, she says, a newly optimistic spirit. “The title refers to how we perceive the rain, whether as a blessing or a challenge. But it’s really about understanding that, while we don’t have control over the rain, we can control the way we perceive it—a metaphor for so many things in our lives.”

Somi’s family is from both Rwanda and Uganda, and she was raised mostly in Illinois, her multicultural background translates into a unique style of melodic storytelling, sung in three different East African languages as well as English. The powerful subtlety and expressiveness of her voice have prompted comparisons to the Nigerian-born, London-raised vocalist Sade, as well as the soulful Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora. “I love her honesty,” she says of Evora, “and Sade has influenced me in terms of trusting myself as an artist, and trusting that I have something to say as an African woman.”

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