On her recent record, "Petite Afrique," released this spring, the singer Somi performs an interesting twist on the mix of cross-cultural admiration and alienation in Sting's "Englishman In New York" by turning it into a song about being an "African in New York."
Somi, born in the U.S., to parents from East Africa, lived for part of her childhood in Zambia, has recently spent time in Nigeria, on the other side of the African continent. She's also been making her home in Harlem, which is practically a character on her recent record. She has a fairly global perspective on jazz, fusing Congolese guitars, Nina Simone-esque odes to blackness, lush layered vocal harmonies that almost sound like a quartet of flutes, lounge-y electronica, sleek Sade-style pop, and a sense of pan-African identity.
Somi is keen to pay homage to the experience of African immigrants in the U.S., a story that she feels close to, and one that she feels is important to tell. It sounds simplistic, but anyone who has questions about the ways that immigrants from war-torn and religiously conservative countries can enrich the culture and economy of America should just listen to Somi's latest, which makes the case in a joyous and silky fashion.
Somi will perform at Crowell Concert Hall at Wesleyan's Center For the Arts, 283 Washington Terrace, Middletown, on Friday, Oct. 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28. wesleyan.edu/cfa