Laura Kabasomi Kakoma is one of those musicians who have given Africa songs to sing and a plethora of tunes to dance to. People like her make me wonder what the world would have been, without music, good music I mean.
Born in Chicago to parents of Rwandan origin and the sixth of seven children, Somi found music at a very young age; an uncommon trait in her immediate or even extended family.
She didn’t seek a well-travelled path, instead she chose one upon which she has now created footprints for others to follow.
“My childhood dream was definitely to be a singer, but as a little girl I thought it was just that, a dream. In the African culture, as you know, it’s very rare to encourage a child to become an artiste. Since I was always involved in the arts, I simply looked at it as a way to be better rounded.
And since there were no professional artistes in my immediate or extended family, I didn’t know what the path would be………..” She tells AllAfrica.com.
At age three, Somi moved with her family to Ndola, Zambia where her father worked for the World Health Organisation. And in the 1980s, when her father became a professor at the University of Illinois, the family returned to Champaign where little Somi spent the rest of her childhood.
She attended the University Laboratory High School and Champaign Central High School, before proceeding to the prestigious University of Illinois where she earned her undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and African Studies. And to hone her artistic skill, Somi took on a Master’s degree programme in Performance Studies at the New York University’s Tisch School of Arts.
Somi’s rise to international acclaim was not in any way accidental or even magical, it took, hard work, resilience and an unremitting devotion to her dream. Even now, with her wealth of experience and a huge international recognition, her work routine remains the same; more work!
“I try to practice daily at home all by myself” she tells Doreen Mutesi of AllAfrica.com
In 2009, Somi signed with independent record label ObliqSound. In the same year, her label debut “If The Rains Come First” which featured an amazing performance by Hugh Masekela( Legendary South African trumpeter and Somi’s long-time mentor) was released in North America and subsequently peeked at number 2 on Billboard Magazine’s World Music Chart and 21 on Billboard Magazine’s Heatseeker’s chart. It also clinched an enviable spot in the RnB and Soul Top 20 albums on Amazon.
In March 2011, the talented songstress recorded her first live concert album at the legendary Jazz Standard in New York City. It was released on Palmetto Records in August 2011.
Just last year, Somi clinched an amazing and enviable berth; she signed her first major label deal with Sony Music which made her one of the first artists on their relaunched historic jazz imprint Okeh Records.
This brilliant and purpose driven singer is a TED Global Fellow, an Association of Performing Arts Presenters Association’s Inaugural Fellow, and the recipient of Doris Duke Foundation’s FAJE Award. She’s also the founder of the New Africa Live, an award-winning organization that reinforces African culture through the arts.
Somi shares her time between Nigeria and the United States, living in Lagos and New York City.
Her heartfelt counsel to the young- “Know yourself, listen to your heart, and take risks. Individuality is the best thing anyone has to offer.”