BWW Review: Singer Songwriter Naomi Wachira in Concert
Seattle's popular Naomi Wachira has released her fourth album, SONG OF LAMENT, and is kicking it off with a summer tour. The tour began in York, Pennsylvania in "Mombasa," the courtyard garden of Gusa by Victoria on West Philadelphia Street, where a packed gathering came to hear Wachira perform new and old songs. Gusa is both a store and arts venue hosted by owner/cultural curator Victoria Kageni-Woodard. Kageni-Woodard, who is Kenyan, invited Wachira, also born in Kenya, to kick off the tour in York.
Wachira performed in a Kenyan dress designed by Kageni-Woodard, armed with an acoustic Takamine classical nylon-string cutaway. She explained that SONG OF LAMENT is "about what happens when we let fear take over, but it's also about hope. It's about what's going on in the world, but also about parts of my life."
Songs included "Our Days Are Numbered," based on the teachings of her clergyman father, "I Am A Woman," her new "Beautifully Human," which was greatly appreciated by a rapt audience, and her title song. "I Am an African Girl," from her 2012 EP, "African Girl." The singer-songwriter professes it to be her favorite song, and it's poignant without being saccharine. Wachira, a fan of and heavily influenced by the late African singer Miriam Makeba, also performed Makeba's song "Mama Africa" in Swahili.
The song, "I Am A Woman," , is about women's resilience in war situations around the world. Wachira sings in it of commonalities among women, as most of her songs reflect commonality among humans generally, as with "I may look different, but I'm just like you; I may thing different, but I'm just like you" in another of her songs.
After the York concert, CDs were available, and it's worth noting that most requests were for "whichever of your CDs 'Beautifully Human' is on." It's on SONG OF LAMENT, available on her website, and it's also available to be streamed free directly from the website. It's a powerful song, and Wachira is fortunate enough to know it, as do audiences.
Wachira's work certainly shows the influence of Makeba, and she also cites Tracy Chapman as an inspiration, but expect to feel everything from a touch of Ani diFranco to Makeba's signature protege, Nana Mouskouri -- the latter no mean feat for a woman armed with her voice and a guitar as her sole weapons of musical distraction. There's also a nostalgic hint of early Joan Baez in some of her folk-rock lyrics.
Opening for Wachira in York was local jazz musician Jason K, who has performed at Gusa previously.
Wachira's tour moves to New York City, to Pittsburgh, and down to Virginia and Kentucky. Tour dates and venues, as well as CD purchases, are available at Wachira's website, naomiwachira.com. Albums are also available on iTunes.