By Jacob Rominger
Somi. a local of Champaign-Urbana, gives a world class performance at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Somi brought to the table a concert that was both exciting and unnerving at times. In her band's style of Jazz, she provided lead vocals for some songs but concentrated on instrumentals in others. Somi initiates some of her performances with heavy breathing into the microphone that puts the audience into incredible unease as they wonder if they are sighs of relief or pain. Whatever the purpose, they indicated a somber mood that contrasted black and white to the exhilarating instrumental performances of her bandmates.
The pianist especially brought an impressive passion to his work, but the guitarist, string, and drum performers each have their moment to shine which Somi ensures the audience takes notice of by joining in with her own dancing. Jazz songs, for me, start to flow together quickly as a landscape piece, were just being surrounded by the noise constitutes the experience rather than attempting to isolate each track on its own merits. As such, I take the performance in whole more akin to a popular music concept album, in which it is all meant to be absorbed in one sitting.
My soundscape approach to consuming Jazz however did not mean I missed out on the messages scattered throughout the lyrics, such as the Alien in New York song whereby in a Noire novel style she provides an emotional telling of the awkwardness of being a minority in the United States' city. Much more, the fact she is children of relatively recent immigrants provides even more degrees of separation than those from more established minority backgrounds and I believe she meant to send this sense of uncomfortable distinction in her lyrics in that she finds herself being identified strongly with her immigrant background more than a racial identity.
Somi chooses to take breaks to talk directly with the audience. Being local, she might have felt especially keen to engage with us. It is not a practice I am particularly excited to see, as I find it tacky, but I understand this sentiment is far from universally shared. Her time to recognize and thank those that had thus far supported her was heartwarming all the same.
This time, I did not come early for dinner and opted to try Krannert's stage bar as the place was packed with some party associated with Carle, the not-for-profit healthcare company local to the area. I ordered a Moscow mule which was served to me in a glass, not a copper mug (not an issue but worth noting). Further, it was very heavy on the vodka and light on the ginger beer, which I found amusing. I mused if I was making mine at home incorrectly, but later assured myself that my version is better regardless.