Originally from Kijabe, Kenya, Naomi Wachira's velvety alto and unpredictable vocal lines over her folky wholesome guitar strumming reflect her musical upbringing and African homeland.
"My dad was a pastor and when I was 5 I became a member of their singing group where we traveled to different churches in Kenya," explained Wachira. "My mom once told me that I started singing before I could even talk, so it was definitely deeply ingrained in me. I definitely knew, even at a young age, that music was powerful and I wanted to do something with it."
Two years ago, Wachira received her American citizenship, as she promised her late father that she would, and in 2013, was named Seattle's Best Folk Singer by the Seattle Weekly. Her unique past and fearless honey-rolled voice make her songs some of the most outstanding that the growing Seattle scene has to offer.
"You can always hear influences of soul, folk, some reggae and Afro percussion," said Wachira of her music. "I think I also look at music as a way to connect us regardless of where we've lived or what we've done with our lives. It's a pretty vulnerable thing to do, and I feel that there's no other way to perform that to be real about your story —your triumphs, your failures, your stupid choices etc. I'm a deeply introspective person and so I spend most of my time observing life around me, and also reflecting on how I'm living my life. When I write my songs it is about honoring what I'm processing, learning, scratching my head about or just wanting to remind myself of what I want out of life."
Wachira has spent the last few years working closely with musicians in the Pacific Northwest including iconic Seattle indie-rocker, Damien Jurado, who produced her self-titled, full-length album.
"He was at an open mic I once played. I remember seeing him as I walked in the door and was completely intimidated," explained Wachira. "A year later, his agent reached out with the a request from Damien that I open for him, which completely floored me. When I was getting ready to record my album, I hit a bump on the road and I reached out to him for advice. About a day later he sent me a text and offered to produce my album if I wanted. There was no way I could say no that!"
The album, released earlier this year, is a triumph with stunning a cappella tracks to a beautifully layered echo off the Puget Sound with hints of Miriam Makeba and Tracy Chapman—two of Wachira's biggest influences—and an overwhelming positivity and investment in optimism.
"I've always wanted to focus on hope in my music, even when I was a little girl. I think the world is such a complicated place and the truth is, you'll find enough people who focus on all that is wrong with the world," said Wachira. "The way I approach life is that even when there are moments filled with darkness, I can always hold on to hope that there is light somewhere, even when I might not see it. It is also my way of following my father's legacy, who was such an incredible man and sought to make positive strides in whatever he did."
An Evening of Empowerment
With Naomi Wachira, Brianna Mercado, David Shoup and MOsley WOtta
7 pm. Thurs., Nov 6
Tower Theater, 835 NW Wall St.
$25/adult $15 youth (under 16)