May 18 – 19

Miriam Makeba & Nina Simone: Singing Protest & Memory with Somi

Jazz at Lincoln Center

  • Show & Tell
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Miriam Makeba and Nina Simone were two of the most uncompromising vocalists and activists of the 20th century. In Singing Protest & Memory, the fiery rising star vocalist and composer Somi will honor their iconic music and irrepressible spirits. Reflecting on her political truth-telling and vocal beauty, Somi has been described as “the new high priestess of soul” by the Huffington Post and as “both serious and seductive” by the New York Times.

This soulful East African songstress was mentored by the legendary Hugh Masekela, who himself had an extensive personal and musical relationship with both Makeba and Simone. In 2014, Somi performed alongside Masekela, Vusi Mahlesela, and Dave Matthews at Carnegie Hall in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of South African democracy. Somi’s latest album debuted at #1 on U.S. and international jazz charts, and her original jazz opera about Makeba’s life will premiere in late 2018. 

To help celebrate the relatively unknown but very close sisterhood between Makeba and Simone, Somi has invited British superstar Laura Mvula as a special guest for the evening. Mvula is an eclectic young musician who has also been compared to the greats and passionately championed by dedicated fans like Prince. American audiences recently heard her at the 2016 Afropunk festival, at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and as part of Angelique Kidjo’s tribute to Makeba at Carnegie Hall. Mvula also demonstrated her deep connection to Nina Simone in the BBC documentary and performance showcase, Nina Simone & Me with Laura Mvula. These great singers will be joined by an ensemble featuring pianist Toru Dodo, guitarist Herbe Samb, bassist Michael Olatuja, drummer Otis Brown III, and vocalist Vuyo Sotashe.

Somi and Mvula are both deeply aware of and connected to their musical influences, but like Simone and Makeba, they consistently defy expectations and deliver distinctive songs with incisive and personal messages. They’re a perfect pair for this celebration, and this concert will speak to fans of jazz, blues, R&B, and a wide range of African music first popularized worldwide by Makeba.

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