Nigeria: Somi to Pay Tribute to Makeba in New Album Featuring Kuti, Kidjo

28 May 2021

Afrobeat singer Seun Kuti and Beninese veteran singer Angelique Kidjo are among the artists that will feature in the upcoming album of Grammy-nominated Rwandan-Ugandan vocalist and songwriter Somi.

Titled 'Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba', the album is a celebration of the late Makeba's musical contributions and messages of social justice. It will feature Somi's renditions of Makeba's best-known songs -- both Makeba's compositions and covers -- starting with the iconic single "Pata Pata," a global hit from 1967.

Regarded as one of Africa's first international superstars, Makeba (whose given name is Zenzile) elevated the spirit of a continent, including her native South Africa. Her courage, however, was met with blacklisting that began with her marriage to civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael.

Somi's lifelong love of Makeba's music and personal strength led to a record that she hopes will inspire a rediscovery of Makeba's life and work.

"This album is my attempt to honour the unapologetic voice of an African woman who inevitably made room for my journey and countless other African artists. In short, I owe her. We all do," she says.

The artist revealed that after the album release slated for July 30, she will take the story of Makeba's life to the theatre stage with her original new musical 'Dreaming Zenzile'. Written by Somi and directed by Obie Award winner Lileana Blain-Cruz, the production is set to premiere later in 2021. 'Dreaming Zenzile' features a cast of five--including Somi as Makeba--a live band, original music and reinterpretations of Makeba's popular repertoire. For her first foray into theatre, Somi was named a 2019 Sundance Theater Fellow.

Born in Illinois, Somi has always used her artistry to pay homage to the complexity of life on the African continent. She has released six other albums, scoring positions on Billboard's World Music chart among others.

Her records have featured guests including Common, Kidjo, and renowned South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who became her longtime mentor. Earlier this year, Somi made history as the first African woman to be nominated for a Grammy in any of the award's jazz categories.

Other collaborators of the album include Grammy-winning male vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, singer-songwriter Msaki, vocalist and activist Thandiswa Mazwai, jazz pianist-composer Nduduzo Makhathini, and American jazz singer Gregory Porter.

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