GRAMMY-Nominated, Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Vocalist Somi Debuts Off-Broadway in Original Musical Dreaming Zenzile, Running Through June 26 at New York Theatre Workshop
Accompanying the March release of her record Zenzile: The Reimagination Of Miriam Makeba, Somi presents her original production Dreaming Zenzile, both inspired by the life of South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba
☆☆☆☆ – Downbeat Magazine
“… a colorful portrait of Miriam Makeba’s diverse catalog.” – Jazz Times
“A performer in full command of her instrument and her powers.” – The New York Times
After the March release of Zenzile: The Reimagination Of Miriam Makeba, a celebration of the late South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba, GRAMMY-nominated vocalist Somi continues to honor Makeba’s invaluable musical contributions and messages of social justice every day. Since May 17, Somi’s original play Dreaming Zenzile has been running Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop as a co-production with the National Black Theatre. The production will continue through June 26 and tickets can be purchased in advance here.
Since the release of her record in March, Somi has galvanized listeners to dive deeper into Makeba’s rich legacy. Somi’s work has been highlighted by national outlets such as Forbes and Downbeat Magazine as well as The Washington Post, where journalist Shannon J. Effinger highlights Somi’s powerful approach to augmenting a part of history that has otherwise been muted in an illuminating, wide-ranging feature.
“Through these works, Somi not only reclaims Makeba’s given name (“Zenzile”) but also deftly gives voice to what’s unspoken, the internal struggle that perhaps Makeba could never express in her public persona,” Effinger writes.
Somi released Zenzile on her own record label, Salon Africana, on March 4, 2022, which would have been Makeba’s 90th birthday. Featuring her renditions of some of Makeba’s best known songs, both Makeba’s own compositions and covers, Somi thinks of Zenzile as a thank you to the late African trailblazer.
“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,” the vocalist shares.
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 rediscovery of Makeba’s life and work.
In recognition of Makeba’s resonance throughout Africa and the diaspora, Somi invited a number of special guests to perform on the record. 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 join Somi for the tribute. Guests also include GRAMMY-winning American jazz singer Gregory Porter, Nigerian singer-musician Seun Kuti (Fela Kuti’s youngest son), and GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter and activist, Angelique Kidjo.
Now as she continues to celebrate the work of Makeba, Somi stars in Dreaming Zenzile, her original stage play based on the life of Makeba under the direction of 2022 Tony Nominee Lileanna Blain-Cruz. Back in September 2021, this electrifying portrait of Makeba kicked off the ‘21-’22 theater season at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep). The rolling world premiere production journeyed on to the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton in January and traveled to ArtsEmerson in Boston in February. The current off-Broadway run in New York City (running now through June 26) is co-produced by the National Black Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop and Apollo Theater, and all shows are in partnership with Octopus Theatricals. The soul-stirring production includes a live jazz band playing original music and reinterpretations of Makeba’s remarkable catalog while telling the story of her extraordinary life journey.
Dreaming Zenzile continues its run through June. For more information on show times and purchasing tickets in advance, visit nytw.org.
MORE ABOUT SOMI
Somi Kakoma is a singer, songwriter, playwright and actor of Rwandan and Ugandan descent. She has released seven acclaimed albums, scoring positions on the World Music, Jazz, and Heatseekers charts. Somi’s previous records have featured guests including Common, Angelique Kidjo, and renowned South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who became her longtime mentor. She has been widely honored as a Soros Equality Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, a USA Doris Duke Fellow, a 2021 Grammy nominee, and a recipient of two NAACP Image Awards. She performed at Carnegie Hall alongside Hugh Masekela, Dave Matthews, and Vusi Mahlesela in celebration of South African democracy, and was invited by UN Secretary General to perform in commemoration of the International Day of Rememberance of the Victimes of Slavery. Somi is the founder of Salon Africana, a boutique arts agency and label for contemporary African musicians and writers. She holds undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and African Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master’s degree in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Creative Practice & Critical Inquiry at Harvard University. www.somimusic.com