“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.