San Diego Union-Tribune (Sunday)

What’s new in the arts

Somi explores the ‘Absence’ of live performanc­es


Performers the world round have been grappling for almost a year with the anguish of not being able to share onstage experience­s with their audiences. One of them is jazz vocalist and songwriter Somi, the American-born artist of Rwandan-ugandan descent who’s already made Grammy Awards history: She’s the first African performer ever to be nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. The Grammys will be handed out on March 14.

In the meantime, Somi is serving as a virtual-artist-in-residence at the University of California San Diego with a multi-event project that she describes as “an invitation” into her process as an artist. Coming up first on Tuesday in an Art-power presentati­on is a screening of Somi’s experiment­al film titled “In the Absence of Things.”

Cautioning that her 15-minute film is “still a work in progress,” Somi calls it “a meditation on the emotional lives of what we go through as performers in the absence of a living stage.” The film features vocals from and is a celebratio­n of Somi’s critically lauded album “Holy Room — Live at Alte Oper With Frankfurt Radio Big Band.”

Somi says “In the Absence of Things” also asks the question: “What is the vibration of cultural space right now in the absence of artists and audiences?” The film, which screens Tuesday at 5 p.m. ($10 general admission), “offers a glimpse into my own experience and the things I’ve held onto to help me survive this time.”

Coming up later in Somi’s residency: a master class, “Creative Process as Anthropolo­gical Witness,” on Feb. 25; a theater excerpts piece, “Rememberin­g Mama Africa,” on March 4; and a panel discussion, “Daughters of Miriam Makeba,” on March 11.

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