Anyone who feels the urge to giggle at terribly earnest lyrics might be tempted to give this one a miss. “What will you learn? What will you teach? You are … a woman. You are … African”, croons Somi, straight-faced, as a café jazz orchestra ba-ba-boops in the background. Don’t abandon her yet, though, because there’s more to the album than that. Coming from a mixed Rwandan-Ugandan background, she enlivens her crooning with peppery yips, and periodic descents into a deeper, matronly voice in the style of Miriam Makeba and other singers from the more southern parts of Africa. Her “African Lady” is not only a protest against black-on-black domestic violence it’s also a lovely piece of musical wit — an Afro-jazz, Afro-beat nod to Fela Kuti’s “Lady”, rounded out with saxophones and a Nigerian accent. “She gon say I be lady-o”, she sings. She’s pointing out that she’s not the first musician to ask respect for the lady in your life, O African husbands. Her heart is in the right place too: she donates to the Rwandan Survivors Fund. Red Soil is worth checking out, even if soft jazz is not usually your thing.
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// Notes from the Road
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