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Somi - The Lagos Music Salon / AXS review

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When her father passed away in 2009, Somi had just released her third, critically acclaimed, multilingual album, If The Rains Come First, on ObliqSound. The album would shoot to #2 on the Billboard World Chart and firmly cement her as a phenomenal Afro-jazz storyteller. But she personally felt the loss.

Drawn back to Africa, where her parents lived before they emigrated to Illinois, the Rwandan/Ugandan artist made one of the most important decisions of her career. "The loss was so sobering that I began to question my own life's legacy and path. My dearest mentor Hugh Masekela knew about my personal loss and subsequent desire for change. He also knew that, more than ever, I wished I could move ‘home' to Africa," Somi explained. "Something about the idea seemed like it might be a way to get closer to my father's spirit and my own heart. It was Uncle Hugh [who] reminded me that to be a musician is to be a global citizen and that I should always listen to my heart should it long to travel. ‘Stop thinking about it as a move,' he said, ‘Think of it as an opportunity to spend time with another part of your global audience.' That's when I decided to make the bold choice of moving to Lagos. A true Africanist, I believe my father is proud of that choice."

She moved to Lagos, Nigeria from New York City in 2011 to find herself, and found a lot more. She found new friends, a deeper voice, a broader narrative, and inspiration for what would be a new album on OKeh Records. Initially, she only planned to stay for 15 months, but extended her visit for three more months as an artist in residence at a university in Ilorin, Nigeria, while doing salons (intimate shows) in the area.

"So I started producing intimate salons at art galleries and other non-traditional venues in Lagos where I would perform my new music. It grew into a series where I'd invite local artists to perform as well," Somi explained. "That work greatly enriched my experience, challenged me to think more about African notions of cultural intimacy, and gave birth to The Lagos Music Salon concept." READ THE FULL AXS REVIEW.