Due to unforeseen circumstances, Somi’s release event for her new album ZENZILE: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba has been moved to a new venue and will now take place at The State Theatre in Pretoria on Sunday March 27. Apologies to early ticket holders for the changes and any inconvenience this may have caused.
The upcoming show at The State Theatre will feature Thandiswa Mazwai and Msaki, as well as Nduduzo Makhathini and Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Tickets are priced between R275.00 - R500.00 at Webtickets
Somi is looking forward to bringing this project home to South Africa on the heels of a triumphant album celebration at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City where she featured five-time Grammy winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves as well as internationally celebrated South African singers Thandiswa Mazwai and Msaki.
GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Somi unveiled her new album Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba on the 4th of March. The fifth studio record from the East African singer-songwriter honors the late South African singer-songwriter and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba; and its March 4 release date marked what would have been Makeba’s 90th birthday.
Zenzile: The Reimagination Of Miriam Makeba, is a celebration of the late Makeba’s invaluable musical contributions and messages of social justice. The album, which will be released on the artist’s Salon Africana label, features Somi’s renditions of some of Makeba’s best known songs—both Makeba’s own compositions and covers.
In recognition of Makeba’s resonance throughout Africa and the diaspora, Somi invited several special guests to perform on Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba including from South Africa: Grammy-winning male vocal group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, singer-songwriter Msaki, vocalist and activist Thandiswa Mazwai, and jazz pianist-composer Nduduzo Makhathini. In addition to Gregory Porter, additional guests include Nigerian singer-musician Seun Kuti (Fela Kuti’s youngest son), and GRAMMY® Award-winning singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo.
Says Somi about her show at The State Theatre in Pretoria on the 27th of March: "It was so important for me to bring this project honoring Mama Miriam back to the very place she called home. I'm deeply indebted to so many South African artists and friends who have held my hand through and to this moment. From early conversations with uBabu' Hugh Masekela when I started thinking about making this project seven years ago to the generous offerings of the South African special guests on the album who stand firmly in her lineage and have taught me so much through their own work. In small and large ways, so many people have supported, taught, and reminded me of how her voice and legacy was and is truly Pan-African. That homegrown South African support is what gave me courage to try to locate her voice inside of my own and I am deeply grateful."
Hailed for her “African grooves, supple jazz singing and compassionate social consciousness … both serious and seductive” by The New York Times, Somi is known for her wide-ranging vocal technique and her original blend of modern jazz with African music styles. The multi-faceted singer, songwriter, playwright, and actor of Rwandan and Ugandan descent has built a career of transatlantic storytelling to give voice to issues of social justice, transnationalism, womanhood, and global constructions of Blackness.
Regarded as one of Africa’s first international superstars, Makeba (whose given name is ‘Zenzile’) elevated the spirit of a continent, including her native South Africa. Her courage, however, was met with three decades of political exile from her homeland followed by blacklisting in the United States after her marriage to civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. Somi’s lifelong love of Makeba’s music and personal strength led to a record that she hopes will inspire a celebratory reflection on Makeba’s life and work. Somi adds, “This album is my attempt to honor the unapologetic voice of an African woman who inevitably made room for my own journey and countless other African artists. In short, I owe her. We all do.”
In celebration of her Makeba’s milestone birthday, Somi will present a festive concert celebration of Miriam Makeba’s life at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City on March 19 at the theater’s Africa Now! festival. ‘Somi: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba’ will headline the Apollo’s annual festival. Special guests include jazz superstar Dianne Reeves and beloved South African legend Thandiswa Mazwai.
“I’m honored to celebrate the memory and music of Miriam Makeba on such a historic stage. In her autobiography, Makeba: My Story, Miriam reflects on her very first performance at The Apollo in September 1961 and all that it meant to her as a young African woman to sing in a place where so many great Black American voices she admired had stood before her. To me, that moment in her career speaks to the ability of her voice to connect and represent the Black experience from both sides of the Atlantic. It is that very generous community-building ethos in her work that has emboldened me to try to honor her life and voice in my own work. What a joy it is to have the opportunity to bring her story and spirit to Harlem, my longtime New York City neighborhood and a multi-generational nexus of global Black culture.”
The new album is a companion piece to the larger cultural memory work of Somi's original play, Dreaming Zenzile, which is based on the life of Miriam Makeba and will open Off-Broadway in New York City in June 2022 after touring across theaters in United States since Fall 2021. Somi is deeply thankful to The Miriam Makeba Estate, The Miriam Makeba Foundation, and Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust for their support and permission to create this work.
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