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Somi - The Lagos Music Salon / Downbeat Magazine interview

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Vocalist Somi will release her OKeh Records debut, The Lagos Music Salon, on Aug. 5th. But on May 23rd at the Kennedy Center's 19th annual Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival in Washington, D.C., the singer-songwriter debuted another project, Women: Femme, an inspired collaboration with trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and her regular touring band.

Women: Femme was inspired by the recent Arab Spring protests, during which Somi saw Facebook images of Muslim women demonstrating, but never heard their voices, which she partly blamed on Western media for not broadcasting their views. "I was really curious about what they might have to say and what their roles were," Somi said. "It was hard for me to find that information so I decided to imagine stories of what they might have to say."

Somi was born and raised in the United States, but has roots in Uganda and Rwanda, while Paris-based Maalouf was born in Beirut. Onstage, their musical dialogue evoked North Africa. The two musicians delivered a stunning set, filled with intriguing storytelling that was animated by Somi's delicate voice meshing with Maalouf's arid trumpet passages. Drummer Otis Brown III and bassist Michael Olatuja cooked up incendiary rhythms that alluded to West Africa, Cuba and the Middle East, while pianist Toru Dodo underscored Somi's winsome melodies with graceful lines.

During an interview with DownBeat after the performance, Somi shed more light on Women: Femme as well as her new disc. READ THE FULL Downbeat Magazine INTERVIEW.