08 April 2007

Red Soil in Your Ears (CD Review)

Somi: Red Soil in My Eyes
(World Village)
buy CD/hear samples

This album took me by surprise. I have certain expectations from an artist whose roots lie in Rwanda and Uganda. Somi quickly dashed those expectations, surprising with a splash of fresh world jazz. The opening track "Ingele" prominently features talking drum, but the arrangement and Somi's African-language vocals tell a tale of jazz.

As the album progresses, Somi sings more in English, reinforcing the jazz side of her lyrical music, though the African roots are never completely buried. As Somi says in the notes,

I wanted the organicism of my returning Home to be clearly placed in the sonic, visual, and emotional aesthetic of those memories. Red Soil in My Eyes is about looking Home for clarity, for grounding, for guidance.

Think Gino Sitson and Richard Bona more than Fela, or just put Somi in the company of Cassandra Wilson, with whom Somi shared the Blue Note jazz club's stage in 2005. With this beautiful, genre-bending album, Somi is sure to win over many new fans who can see past narrow genre labels.

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