Petite Afrique, released in March of 2017, is an album that ponders the dignity and beauty – and the fate – of Harlem’s longstanding community of African immigrants. The songs, primarily composed in English, are grounded in the musical traditions of the major ethnic groups of Harlem’s African community (Wolof, Fula and Bambara). The song cycle celebrates Harlem’s significance to Jazz music, featuring an ensemble that includes voice, guitar, piano, bass, drums, saxophones and trumpet.
Framed by small ensemble arrangements that blend modern jazz, African music and the singer-songwriter tradition, Petite Afrique is an amalgamation of the musical and cultural worlds that most deeply resonate with who Somi is as an African and American woman, while drawing on her training as a vocalist, jazz musician, songwriter, cultural anthropologist, and proud Harlemite.
A timely thematic exploration of the complex intersectional identities of African immigrants in the United States, as African immigrant communities in cities throughout the country consider how they might develop collective strategies to remain visible and intact despite the clear intention of the Trump administration to normalize a hostile and oppressive atmosphere of xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism.
Critical dialogue around issues such as immigration and xenophobia can (and should) disrupt mainstream definitions of art, power, community, voice, and cultural space. The evening’s performance will thus be paired with a post-performance dialogue about the incredible importance of multicultural immigrant voices, values and counter-narratives. Audience members will be welcomed to share experiences, ideas, and best practices related to community strength, resilience, and social-political agency, during the moderated dialogue.