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Dreaming Zenzile

Written and performed by Somi Kakoma

Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz

Project Description

Dreaming Zenzile is a modern jazz play based on the extraordinary life of late South African singer and political activist Miriam Makeba. Written and performed by vocalist and songwriter Somi Kakoma, Dreaming Zenzile takes place on the night of Makeba's final performance and is a poetic evocation of real and dreamed experiences. The play features both original music and reinterpretations of Makeba's popular repertoire through the modern jazz idiom and small ensemble arrangements. Somi inhabits the role of Makeba and is accompanied by a chorus of 3 actor-singers and 4 musicians who embody the human, spiritual and musical landscape of Makeba's remarkable life. "Zenzile" is actually Makeba's given name which means "you have done it to yourself" in her native language of Xhosa.

World Premiere at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, March 18 - April 12, 2020.


The acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Somi was born in Illinois to immigrants from Uganda and Rwanda. The Huffington Post recently dubbed her "the new Nina Simone," while NPR describes her as "an ambitious artist and superb jazz singer [who] creates an elegant amalgam of her bi-continental experiences. Somi is a TED Senior Fellow, an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, and a former Artist-in-Residence at Park Avenue Armory, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and Baryshnikov Arts Center. Her latest recording, Petite Afrique, released on Sony Music's historic Okeh Records, is a timely song cycle about the dignity of immigrants and gentrification of Harlem's vibrant West African quarter. The album was recently nominated for a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album and follows the success of The Lagos Music Salon, which debuted at #1 on U.S. and international jazz charts and earned her an ECHO Award nomination for Best International Jazz Vocalist.

Dreaming Zenzile is developed with the support of The Clarice Smith Center's Artist Partner Program, Baryshnikov Arts Center, The Apollo Theater, and The Public Theater.

Special thanks to The Miriam Makeba Estate and Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust for their support and permission to create this work.