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Somi: Bio

Born in Illinois, the daughter of immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda, Somi's American experience has always been infused with the African diaspora's richest political and artistic traditions. And now Petite Afrique combines the two facets of her life magically. A longtime Harlem resident, Somi is also a true Africanist: she spent part of her youth in Africa with her parents and now, with her band, tours the continent extensively. Famously, Somi's dazzling 2014 album, The Lagos Music Salon, which debuted at the top of US Jazz charts, was born from an 18-month "sabbatical" in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Founder of New Africa Live, a nonprofit championing her fellow African artists, Somi realized some years ago that she was explicitly segmenting her work for the communities she came from and the work that she did as an artist. "I realized," Somi details, "that I could still curate a sense of community in the same, and possibly larger, ways through my music." Now a TED Senior Fellow, her career a refined merger of singing and activism, Somi has entered a fascinating new phase herself: "New Africa Live was about making room for our voices that might otherwise go unheard. Hopefully, Petite Afrique starts larger conversations about immigration and xenophobia and Blackness." 

1 Disappearing Act I
2 Alien
3 Black Enough
4 The Wild One
5 They're Like Ghosts
6 The Gentry (feat. Aloe Blacc)
7 Kadiatou The Beautiful
8 Holy Room
9 Disappearing Act II
10 Let Me
12 Go Back to Your Country
13 Like Dakar
14 Midnight Angels
Ndani Sessions - Somi "Ginger Me"

Pulsing with Harlem's rhythms and sonic ambiance, Somi's Petite Afrique is an homage to her New York City upper Manhattan neighborhood, and one of the Meccas of the African diaspora.  In the village of Harlem, along west 116th Street from Malcolm X Boulevard to Frederick Douglass Boulevard, African immigrants build American lives. Populated predominantly by a Francophone, West African and Muslim community, this is a strip of Harlem that locals call "Little Africa" or "Petite Afrique:" a thriving corridor of hair shops and shea butters, bistros and self-taught tailors.  Many of these working class residents - immigrants-cum-citizens - are now taxi drivers zipping other New Yorkers through the city they've called home since the 1980s. 

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