Jazz Vocalist Somi Kakoma, Becomes First African Artist Nominated for a Jazz Vocal Performance Grammy

East African Jazz songstress Somi Kakoma, popularly known as ‘Somi’, announces her nomination for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, where she has been shortlisted in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Album for her latest live album, ‘Holy Room’. The historical moment not only marks the first time Somi has received a nomination, but Somi also becomes the first African woman to ever be nominated in any of the jazz categories, as well as the first African artist to be nominated for a jazz vocal performance.

Somi’s highly acclaimed album ‘Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper’ is “an homage to the sacredness of cultural space.” Released in Summer 2020, the album serves as a source of light, hope and courage during the unprecedented times the world has seen this past year. Choosing to release a live album shortly after touring was shut down was also her way of connecting with the very thing that makes her feel most alive. First recorded during a May 2019 performance at a famed 18th century German opera house with the illustrious Frankfurt Radio Big Band, the album beautifully fuses together Somi’s creative storytelling, sophisticated sounds and African roots to deliver a powerful body of work.  ‘Holy Room’ is the first release on her independent label Salon Africana. Jazz musician extraordinaire John Beasley is one of the many wonderful additions found on ‘Holy Room’; having conducted and arranged the album, his contribution to the big band sound is what truly captivates and draws you into the album. 

Partial proceeds of the album were donated in support of Black Art Futures Fund – a collective of emerging philanthropists promoting the elevation and preservation of Black arts & culture through grant making, board-matching, and organization-to-donor cultivation. Somi’s previous studio album, Petite Afrique (Sony, 2017), was a song cycle about African immigrants in the midst of a gentrified Harlem in New York City that won her an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album.

The Grammy Awards, presented by the Recording Academy, recognizes achievements in the music industry and have long been celebrated as the music industry’s highest honor. This year’s awards ceremony will take place on January 31, 2021 in Los Angeles.

Vocalist, composer, and writer Somi Kakoma was born in Illinois to immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda.  Known in the jazz world simply as ‘Somi’, she has built a career of transatlantic storytelling.  She recently released ‘Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper’ with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band earned her a 2021 GRAMMY nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.  Her last studio album, Petite Afrique (Sony, 2017), a song cycle about African immigrants in the midst of a gentrified Harlem in New York City, won her an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album.  It was also the highly anticipated follow-up to Somi’s acclaimed major label debut The Lagos Music Salon (Sony, 2014), which was inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria and landed at the top of US and international jazz charts. Both albums earned her ECHO Award nominations in Germany for Best International Jazz Vocalist.  

Recently venturing into theater, Somi was named a 2019 Sundance Theatre Fellow for her original musical about the great South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba. The premiere production was shut down six days before opening night due to COVID-19.

Mentored by the legendary musician Hugh Masekela, Somi is known both for her artistry and her activism. She is a Soros Equality Fellow, USA Doris Duke Fellow, TED Senior Fellow, and a tireless champion of her fellow African artists. She is also the founder of boutique cultural agency and record label Salon Africana. In her heart of hearts, Somi is an East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom.  

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