Naomi Wachira is a Seattle-based singer and songwriter. Named Best Folk Singer by Seattle Weekly in 2013, Naomi makes music plucked from her life, imbued with a sense of hope. She credits her influence to two groundbreaking female songwriters, Miriam Makeba and Tracy Chapman. The daughter of a pastor, Naomi joined the traveling family band at five years old, spreading the good word through gospel song in Kenya. Since then, with her Afro infused rhythms and simple lyrics, she has sought to make a positive mark in the world, by reminding us that no matter our differences, we are all alike in our existence….
“I am an African girl, well I know where I’m coming from, and I know who I want to be…” is the defiant soul-anthem that jumpstarted Afro-Folk singer/songwriter Naomi Wachira onto a whole new path and calling. The words, from the title track of her first EP African Girl (2012), paved the way for this Kenyan-born, Seattle-based artist, who is determined to make a contribution in the world by offering music that is poignant, hopeful and life-giving. Five years later, after a critically acclaimed self-titled album Naomi Wachira (2014) and an acoustic EP I am Because You Are (2015), comes her sophomore album Song of Lament, which she says, “was born out the many tragic losses we’ve witnessed globally - ranging from cases of police brutality to the refugee crisis - that made me grieve about who we’ve become, but also burned a desire in me to create art that would serve society at large and hopefully lessen the chaos around us.” Song of Lament, recorded at Seattle’s historic London Bridge studio, was produced by Eric Lilavois (Saint Motel, Atlas Genius, My Chemical Romance) with contributions from Dave West (organ/Rhodes), Teo Shantz (drums), Masa Kobayashi (bass), Tommy Sandovallegos (percussion), Eric Lilavois (percussion), Owuor Arunga (trumpet) and Andrew Joslyn (strings). This work is a testament to Wachira’s full embrace of her creative power and its ability to spread goodness to a world churning with chaos and self-inflicted woes born out of fear and mistrust of the “other.” It is a stark and heartfelt reflection on the contemporary world and the human experience therein. Throughout the eleven-track collection, Wachira poignantly articulates the pain and chaos of modern times, while also lifting up her enduring and hopeful belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity. The album delves into issues of violence funneled through political ideologies and asks questions about how human beings arrive at this place of utter darkness (“Heart of a Man”). She highlights issues of human equality, especially as it undermines the divine sacredness of those who are different (“Beautifully Human”), and longs for a society where people take care of each other (“I am Because You Are”). With a rise in turmoil across the globe, she acknowledges how easy it is to despair on the status of a world that is hell bent on destroying itself (“Up in Flames”). She sings a mournful dirge for the countless lives lost at sea while escaping war torn homelands in search of peace and dignity (“Farewell”) and questions those who perpetuate violence in the name of faithful religious expression (“Where is God?”). And with an existential yearning, she wonders why Africa, one of the most resourceful continents in the world, has struggled to find her footing (Song of Lament). However, not all the songs are heavy. The first and last tracks (“Our Days Are Numbered” and “Think Twice”) are a reminder that while the sun does not discriminate between the good and the bad, fulfillment is found when we spend our days practicing kindness and wisdom and taking account that when all’s said and done, our actions really do matter. She joyously blesses her mother and father, with whom she credits for the woman she is today (“Mûrathimwo”), and encourages all of us who’ve hit rock bottom in life and feel disillusioned, to never give up or look back (“Run, Run, Run”). With music that is both uplifting and somber, there is no doubt Wachira is determined to create a niche in the world and perhaps inch us closer to one another as we remember our shared humanity. Like the two predecessors she has long admired, Tracy Chapman and Miriam Makeba, she hopes that she can contribute to making the world a better place. Asked about what she hopes to accomplish with this album she says, “if there’s one thing I learned from my parents, it is to try and leave a place better than I found it. My hope is that this album will do just that. I know we are certainly living in dark times, but I hope that we will all find the courage to be light in whatever way we’ve been gifted… that we will seek to understand those who are different from us and find ways to both acknowledge and celebrate our differences and similarities.”……….
This week on The Music Room, we talk to Naomi Wachira, an up-and-coming musician who had been voted Seattle’s Best Folk Singer by the publication Seattle Weekly. Naomi and had recently released her first full length self-titles album, following up on her 2012 EP African Girl.
Naomi names musicians like Miriam Makeba and Tracy Chapman as two of her musical influences. She also draws inspiration both from her homeland of Kenya and her life as a citizen of the Pacific Northwestern United States, bringing references to biblical figures, Kikuyu lyrics and socially aware, hopeful songwriting along with her style of playing the acoustic guitar to create a sound that is unique and delightful to listen to.
Over the course of the interview, we talk about Naomi’s past and her culture and how it influences her songwriting process, her distinctness as a musical citizen of the world, the joys and trials of attempting to start up a music career, and the lengths she has gone to achieve her dreams.
You can find out more by visiting Naomi’s website, which includes information about upcoming performances and her album.