She was born in Illinois and did most of her growing up in America, but the singer who calls herself Somi -- that's short for L. Kabasomi Kakoma -- is the daughter of Rwandan and Ugandan parents, also spent time living in Africa and, due in no small part to the extremes of that experience, has created a seamless merger of cultures, sounds and emotions with this richly textured recording. Red Soil in My Eyes is all elegance and awe, and attempting to reduce Somi's pan-globalism and command of her artistic environment to a single genre or purpose would be a fruitless endeavor. She skates easily between worlds, touching on both smooth and raucous neo-soul, nuanced jazz expression and more than a dollop of East African tradition until something else all together emerges. She sings of nature and of love, life, freedom and faith without forcing distinctions between them. And one gets the impression that she arrives at that juncture effortlessly: many layers unfold throughout these multilingual, genre-busting, continually revealing songs, but the voice itself, wherever it may head, never lets go of its grip. "Ingele," the Swahili-sung opening track (a finalist in the world music category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest), introduces the subtle, sultry side of Somi via a quasi-bossa nova rhythm that ultimately transforms into a platform through which her multi-octave voice dips and flies in several directions. "African Lady," on the other hand, is all rhythm, Fela style (the chorus is based on his "Lady"), delivering a strong anti-domestic violence message -- sung mainly in English -- along with its feast of percussion. Somi commands a sizable, virtuosic band throughout much of the album, but ends it on a quiet and poignant note: the hidden bonus track "Remembrance," which she dedicates to the survivors of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. On it, Somi's voice takes on otherworldly characteristics as it rides pure waves of sound, hauntingly reverent, intense and utterly captivating.
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin