If The Rains Come First
Released On: Oct 27, 2009
Released By: Obliqsound
When Somi was growing up, her mother told her that the rain, ever unpredictable, could be as much a blessing as a challenge. The blessings might come before the rain, or they could come after - it's all in the timing, she said. That notion has stayed with the charismatic singer and songwriter all her life and now provides a metaphorical focus for her third album, If The Rains Come First. The album is a stunning collection of self-penned story-based songs, a meditation on opening ourselves up to life's blessings and challenges much in the way that we accept the rain and all that it brings.
If The Rains Come First builds upon elements that first surfaced on Somi's two previous recordings: the electric soul-jazz of 2003's Eternal Motive (SanaaHouse) and the acoustic, culture-merging elegance of 2007's multilingual Red Soil in My Eyes (World Village/Harmonia Mundi). But her further evolution becomes immediately apparent as If The Rains Come First unfolds. Singing in English and three East African languages, Somi's vocal delivery is subtle yet the power she exerts is enormous.
The percussive thrust at the heart of African music is also a fundamental component of If The Rains Come First, brought to bear by an all-star African rhythm section of Ivorian percussionist Madou Koné, Senegalese guitarist Herve Samb, and Nigerian bassist Michael Olatuja. Somi recorded the album's 11 songs in Paris in order to take advantage of the city's sizable African music scene, then finished it in New York to avail herself of the world's greatest jazz community. Among the exemplary musicians who provide the coloring that fleshes out Somi's songs are longtime collaborators Toru Dodo on Fender Rhodes and piano, and guitarists Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore and Michele Locatelli.
Optimism, conviction and resilience are hallmarks of Somi's new creations - these are songs of survival and awareness. "Prayer To the Saint of the Brokenhearted," reflects on the sense of helplessness and hopelessness one often feels after heartache, while serving as a reminder of the possibilities of faith and renewal. At the core of each of Somi's highly personal and intimate tales are shared emotions and experiences of love, life, loss and learning. "Enganjyani," which means 'most beloved' in Rutooro, the language spoken by Somi's Ugandan mother, refers to, as she puts it, "the memory of whispered prayer and being haunted by a past lover." The track features the legendary Hugh Masekela, a longtime Somi fan who has become a mentor, guesting on trumpet. "Rising," a song about faith and navigating life's challenges, is all forward motion, a flawless juxtaposition of sizzling rhythm, instantly memorable melody and a vocal style that JazzTimes magazine describes as "the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves."
"The songs on this album reflect where I am emotionally and spiritually today," Somi continues. "At the end of the day, I still know who I am and where home is before, during, and after the rain - it's in the music."
Oct 13: Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY (9 pm, reception, 10 pm, show)
Oct 18: Bohemian Caverns, Washington, DC
Oct 22: Israeli Opera House (w/Idan Raichel Project), Tel Aviv
Oct 24 Phazamorgana Fest (w/Idan Raichel Project) Timna Park, Israel
Nov 18: Sculler's, Boston, MA
Digital exclusive of the album is released October 13.
"A superb singer" — Vogue
"Utterly captivating" — All Music Guide
"A mix of soul, jazz and African musical elements including singing in three and four languages. Somi's latest opus definitely reveals an artist whose musical concepts have grown and evolved...The songs are delivered in a soft, intimate but strong and malleable voice. The compositions are all original and reflect the unique musical vision of the artist. Check out how elegantly "Hot Blue" flows along like liquid silk until it segues into a marvelous rump-shaking tama driven romp."" — Akenataa Hammagaadji, First World Music
"Somi's voice is full bodied and sure." — Time Out NY