‘Dreaming Zenzile’, a rising jazz star’s tribute to her idol, makes her Rep debut | Arts and theater


Somi performs a musical number for the Repertory Theater of St. Louis’ production of “Dreaming Zenzile” on March 11, 2020. The show, which Somi also wrote, is about legendary South African singer-activist Miriam Makeba. The Rep production will be the show’s world premiere.

Photo by Laurie Skrivan, post-expedition

Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, the show features Somi performing her own compositions as well as songs associated with Makeba, to the jazzy accompaniment of pianist Toru Dodo, bassist Benjamin Jephta, guitarist Hervé Samb and drummer Sheldon Thwaites.

“In the theater, in general, people play exactly what the note is, every night,” she says. “But there is something really wonderful about the opportunity to come out of this. So there is this larger metaphor of freedom, which is really the subject of Miriam Makeba’s entire life course. “

Makeba, who was born in Johannesburg on March 4, 1932, drew attention to the struggle against apartheid – the white-dominated policy of racial segregation maintained in South Africa from 1948 to 1991. In a 2008 interview, she described her art as a reflection of her past.

“People think I made a conscious decision to tell the world what was going on in South Africa,” she said. “No! I sang about my life, and in South Africa we always sang about what happened to us, especially the things that hurt us.

The singer fell out of favor with the American music industry after marrying civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968. Vietnam War critic, associated with the Black Panther Party and target of FBI surveillance, Carmichael was a figure controversial.

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