June 25, 2022

Time for another Jazz warning but, beware, if you stop reading now you will miss out on an artist with one of the greatest voices I have ever heard. I haven’t come across Somi before but she is a singer, songwriter, playwright and actor of Rwandan and Ugandan descent based in the United States. She has such a life affirming, wonderfully warm and amazingly powerful and flexible voice that I doubt many of you will have ever heard her equal either.

Somi has several albums already in her catalogue with this latest being Zenzile – The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba which is a celebration of the life, music and the messages of social justice and hope from ‘the first lady of African song’. The album sees Somi reinterpreting some of the better known songs of Zenzile Miriam Makeba with the music interspersed by snippets of her social commentary. Makeba was a larger than life South African singer, songwriter, actress and civil rights activist and advocate against apartheid who made a real mark on the world before her passing in 2008. Somi now helps to celebrate her great life by performing songs associated with her and has brought in some great guests too with appearances from Angelique Kidjo, Gregory Porter, Msaki, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Seun Kuti. Take time to read up on the life of Makeba and the torrid times she lived in and it shows just how terribly we can treat those we see as different and, sadly, not much seems to have changed these days!

If you are partial to the music of Nina Simone then listen to this and you will be totally amazed. The album is supreme and fluid jazz with stunning instrumentation and vocal master classes throughout. The music is awash with the vibe and rhythms of Africa and if you have a copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland then maybe you could consider this as part of the same family. There is a huge amount of music in Africa and we really should hear more of it and I cannot think of a better way to start than with this huge and spectacular album of delights.

Zenzile – The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba

  1. Umhome (6:16)
  2. House of the Rising Sun (3:45)
  3. Milele (3:24)
  4. Hapo Zamani (4:35)
  5. Love Tastes Like Strawberries (3:38)
  6. Khuluma (5:12)
  7. Pata Pata (4:25)
  8. A Piece of Ground (5:33)
  9. Kwedini (4:39)
  10. Lakutshon’ilanga (3:23)
  11. Olili (4:40)
  12. Mbombela (3:42)
  13. Jike’lemaweni (4:28)
  14. Nonqonqo (2:20)
  15. Malaika (4:17)
  16. Ring Bell, Ring Bell (3:11)
  17. Mabhongo (5:26)