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Born (1981-06-06) June 6, 1981 (age 33)
Origin Uganda, Rwanda
Champaign, Illinois, USA
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician, producer
Instruments Vocals, cello
Years active 1998—present
Labels Sony Music, Sony Masterworks, Okeh Records

Somi (born June 6, 1981) is an American singer and songwriter of Rwandan and Ugandan descent.


Somi was born in Champaign, Illinois, while her father was completing post-doctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When Somi was three years old, her family then moved to Ndola, Zambia, while her father worked for the World Health Organization. In the late 1980s when her father became a professor at the University of Illinois, they returned to Champaign, where Somi spent the rest of her childhood. She attended both University Laboratory High School and Champaign Central High School, and earned her undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and African Studies from the University of Illinois. She also holds a Master's degree from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in Performance Studies.

Known in music industry circles for her tenacity and business acumen, Somi's original and hybrid sound began to garner international attention from both jazz and world music audiences. She calls this fusion of an African flavor into jazz as “New African Jazz”.[1] In 2007, SanaaHouse Productions licensed Somi's Red Soil In My Eyes to the Harmonia Mundi/World Village label for her first international distribution deal. The record received wide critical acclaim with the hit single "Ingele" that maintained a Top 10 position on U.S. World Music Charts for several months.

In 2009, Somi signed with independent record label ObliqSound.[2] Her label debut If The Rains Come First was released in North America on October 27, 2009, and subsequently debuted at no. 2 on Billboard Magazine′s World Music Chart and no. 21 on Billboard′s Heatseekers Chart. The album features South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Somi's long-time mentor, as a guest on one track. In March 2011, Somi recorded her first live concert album at the legendary Jazz Standard in New York City. It was released on Palmetto Records in August 2011.

In 2011, Somi was named a TED Global Fellow and an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow. She is also the founder of the award-winning non-profit organization New Africa Live.

In 2013, Somi signed her first major label deal with Sony Music to become one of the first artists on their relaunched historic jazz imprint Okeh Records.

She currently shares her time between Nigeria and the United States, living in Lagos and New York City.



  1. ^ "African Jazz Gets New Voice". VOA News (Voice of America). February 28, 2007. Retrieved January 1, 2009. 
  2. ^ "ObliqSound signs vocalist Somi". ObliqSound blog. March 11, 2009. Retrieved September 27, 2009. 

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