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Vocalist Somi releases tribute to Miriam Makeba on March 4

A Black woman wears a strapless red gown. A billowy skirt flows to the left.
Courtesy of the artist

"Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba" will be available on March 4, which would have been Makeba's 90th birthday. Somi's album release event is scheduled for March 19 at the historic Apollo Theater in New York City.

Somi Kakoma is a singer, songwriter, playwright and actor of Rwandan and Ugandan descent.

Somi has released seven albums of jazz and world music, featuring guests like Common, Angelique Kidjo and Somi's mentor, South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba includes bassist Michael Olatuja, percussionist Mino Cinelu, saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt.

Somi's tribute to Miriam Makeba began in 2021, with "Dreaming Zenzile," her original musical theater production based on the life of Makeba. "Dreaming Zenzile" plays at ArtsEmerson in Boston at the end of February and is booked for an Off-Broadway run in New York City in late May.

“Zenzile is my attempt to honor the unapologetic voice of an African woman who inevitably made room for my journey and that of countless other African artists. In short, I owe her," says Somi. "We all do! Her messages of social justice and the humanity of Black lives still encourage us today. This project is about honoring the vast and immeasurable contribution she made to popular, folk, and jazz music on behalf of a people, a continent.”

Miriam Makeba- Malaika (Live Performance 1969)

Honored as a Soros Equality Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, a USA Doris Duke Fellow, a 2021 Grammy nominee and a recipient of two NAACP Image Awards, Somi also holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology and African studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree in performance studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in creative practice and critical inquiry at Harvard University.

Somi performed at Carnegie Hall alongside Hugh Masekela in celebration of South African democracy and was invited by the UN Secretary General to perform for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery.

Listen for Somi's version of "House of the Rising Sun" and her duet with Gregory Porter, "Love Tastes Like Strawberries" on KNKX Midday and Evening Jazz.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.