Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Somi – African jazz singer at Pizza Express Somi – African jazz singer at Pizza Express
Somi – African jazz singer at Pizza Express

I recently discovered a goldmine, not in the foothills of Ghana but right here at the Pizza Express, in Soho, central London. This glittering cavern of awesome talent came in the shapely form of the abundantly talented Rwandan-Ugandan singer songwriter Somi.


If you take a mix of Jenifer Hudson, Jill Scott and add a dash of revolutionary Nina Simone and the bluesy African jazz and blend you get an idea of what Somi’s music has to offer. Somi is the confluence of traditional jazz, vibrant East African sounds and politically charged lyrics where topics like Black Live Matters, American xenophobia are a staple.


Looking resplendent in a long flowing burgundy dress with her thick luxurious locks flowing down her shoulders, Somi took to the stage in the intimate surroundings of this popular London eatery. The expectant crowd made up primarily of local jazz faithful with a smattering of loyal fellow country folks were treated to a night of breathy bluesy soul tinged African jazz of sheer quality that was hard to fault in anyway.


Playing from her six and latest album ‘Petite Afrique’ a homage to her New York city upper Manhattan neighbourhood, Somi treated us in the first half to tracks like “Black Enough”, “They’re Like Ghosts”, “Blue”, “Alien” ( a version of the Sting song) and much more.


We also got a taste of her core band mates Turo Dou on piano and a simply delightful young African guitarist by the name of Herve Samb. The virtuosity of the two was spellbinding with their solos and interplay on the track “Black Enough” in particular a joy to witness. At some points the two were in there own world that it was difficult not to get transported along their journeys.


After a brief interlude, thing really got warmed up as the audience knew they had a musical journey of Somi’s delectable back catalogue in store. Whetting our appetite with “Ginger Me Slowly”, Somi proceeded to treat us to a full sumptuous meal with tracks like the “Enganjyani”, the haunting “Brown Round Things”, “Last Song”, “Ankara Sundays”, uplifting and politically astute “When Rivers Cry” (the album track features Common) and many more songs from her previous critically acclaimed albums.


By this time the audience on their feet, clapping and cheering furiously. Although fully gorged, they hollered for more, that a delicious slice on an encore was inevitable.


It was a faultless performance by this graduate of Anthropology and African Studies whose prodigious talents has graced the stage of the legendary Jazz Standard in New York city. With excellent acoustics in an intimate and a reasonably priced Italian menu the night was truly value for money.


With the Huffington Post and other major publications describing Somi as the ‘new Nina Simone’, Somi is truly an artist you should explore if you like a touch of black revolution in your jazz. So check out her website to see when she’s next in town and make sure you’re first in the queue for a ticket.


Who: Somi Where: Pizza Express, W1D 3RW
When: April 11 2017

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