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Somi: Red Soil in My Eyes

Imagine the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the fluid vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves. Such is Somi, a New York-based singer-songwriter of Rwandan and Ugandan heritage who blends soul, jazz, gospel and traditional African music to shape what she calls “holistic new African soul.”

Easy as it is to be lured into tranquility by the sultry radiance of her honey-and-cinnamon sound, it’s best to pay attention to what she has to say. Pretty as the wrapping might be, there are some strong, important messages inside. Personal empowerment is Somi’s principal theme, as gorgeously examined from various perspectives. There is the priceless value of lessons passed from generation to generation in “My Mother’s Daughter.” There is the celebration of African women’s work ethic at the heart of “Mbabazi,” and the exploration of ancestral influence in the title track. There are ruminations on nature (“Natural”), faith (“Day by Day”) and life’s cyclical majesty (“Circles”).

Most profoundly, there is “African Lady,” a message against domestic violence that holds its own alongside any and all of the vibrant social treatises put forth by Simone.

Originally Published