“A virtuosic performer in full command of her instrument and powers.” – The New York
TimesVocalist, composer, and playwright Somi Kakoma is the daughter of immigrants from Ugandaand Rwanda. Known in the jazz world simply as ‘Somi’, her fifth studio album, Zenzile: TheReimagination of Miriam Makeba, is a companion project to the critically acclaimed originalmusical “Dreaming Zenzile” that Somi also wrote and starred in Off-Broadway as a tribute tothe great South African singer and activist.
Prior to Zenzile and at the height of the 2020lockdown, Somi released an unplanned live album called Holy Room featuring the FrankfurtRadio Big Band that ultimately earned her a 2021 Grammy® nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album and made her the first African woman ever nominated in any of the Grammy® jazzcategories.
Somi is a recipient of the 2023 Doris Duke Artist Award, two NAACP Image Awards for Best Vocal Jazz Album, and the inaugural Jazz Music Award for Best Vocal Performance. She is also a Soros Equality Fellow, a United States Artist Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, a Sundance Theatre Fellow, and the founder of Salon Africana – a boutique cultural agency and record label.
Somi holds degrees in Cultural Anthropology and African Studies from University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master’s degree in Performance Studies from Tisch School of
the Arts at NYU, and is currently working on her PhD at Harvard University’s Department of
Music. In her heart of hearts, she is an East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry,
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2022 NEA Jazz Master Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. is a musician/composer dedicated
to mastering every era of jazz, soul, and funk and composing orchestral classical music. He has been called a “One man music festival” because his performances cover the
history of American music and show that is the basis for his innovations. According to
geniuses Eddie Palmieri, Nicholas Payton, Carl Allen, and Mike Clark, he is a genius. In 2021 Harrison received an Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College. He appeared
as an actor in nine episodes of “Treme,” where director David Simon created two
characters to portray how Harrison innovated music. He was an actor and musician in
director Johnathon Demme’s film “Rachel Getting Married and Marvel’s “Luke Cage.” He played himself in Spike Lee’s historic HBO documentary “When The Levees
Broke,” and Netflix’s documentary “I Got A Story To Tell,” about The Notorious BIG. Harrison is the recognized Big Chief of Congo Square in Afro-New Orleans culture, where he keeps alive one of the root contributors cultures to Traditional jazz.
Harrison was made a Chief in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa, and is the only major jazz artist who is Chief on two continents. Harrison honed his craft by playing with Roy Haynes, Art Blakey, Eddie Palmieri, Dr. John, Lena Horne, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Chuck Loeb, The Headhunters, hip-hop greats Digable
Planets, Guru’s Jazzmatazz, The Notorious BIG, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and over 200 jazz master innovators of every era and style. He has also played with the
master innovators of blues, funk, soul, hip-hop, classical, and New Orleans music. He has innovated three influential jazz styles. In 1979, at nineteen, Harrison brought a
modern jazz twist to New Orlean’s second-line music.
By the mid-80s, he created “Nouveau Swing,” a concept that blends classic jazz with hip-hop, funk, and soul music. In the ’90s, Harrison made smooth jazz hits and began exploring quantum music in 2000. He began composing and orchestrating classical music for symphonic orchestras in 2013. Harrison also mentored diverse artists Christian Scott, Johnathon Batiste, Esperanza Spaulding, Trombone Shorty, multiple Grammy-winning platinum hip-hop producer Deezle, and The Notorious Big. Jonathon Batiste say’s, “I consider Donald Harrison one of the greatest teachers of the last fifty years because he teaches all the music.”
In 2023, Harrison will perform, release his multiverse compositions, and work in a new
“Quantum Improvisation” concept with saxophonist and premier Quantum Theorist
Stephon Alexander. The new exciting band features Brian Richburg on drums, Dan
Kaufman on piano, and Nori Nariatsu on bass. They are being called the greatest group
in terms of understanding and playing the history of jazz and moving it into new
directions. People in the audiences are saying they experienced the greatest musical
performance ever, and that the beauty of the music made them cry.
Harrison is also set to release his classical orchestral composition, “Congo Square,” and his innovative multiverse music single “The Magic Touch.” He is quietly working to complete software for his new patented music recording invention. Harrison’s diligence and talent have led his group to develop into one of music’s must-see aggregations. “A genius.” Eddie Palmieri “My GOAT” Christian ATunde Adjuah
“…A legend…” Robert Glasper “…The Best…” New York Times “A one man Jazz Festival” Times Picayune “Both old school and cutting-edge at the same time” The Wall Street Journal