Like a velvet hammer, Kenyan born Naomi Wachira delivers deep, introspective lyrics against a backdrop of joyful African rhythms.
“Sometimes it can be heavy emotions like setting the deepness of life against a background of something so joyful,” says the talented songstress who calls Seattle and the small African town of Kijabe home. “Life is a balance of sorrow and joy.”
Wachira says she has always wanted to be a voice and presence for people, something she believes is an innate part of her personality but also something she learned from her late pastor/businessman father who, despite his prominence in Kijabe, cared deeply for the rights of others.
“He was true to his faith. He really believed in the gospel in a more loving way and tried to emulate what he believed.”
Wachira says she honed her songwriting skills during her years at boarding school, where she nurtured her introspective and observant nature.
While she says it’s amazing to be able to call two places home, Wachira says there is a huge difference in how people think and what they value and that it always takes a week in Africa to get away from her American way of thinking.
“Africa has a more community based way of life, while in America, time is everything,” she says. “When I go home, time is almost irrelevant and it takes time to adjust the focus onto people.”
Agreeable to being described as a musical activist, Wachira says whether in Africa or America, a lot of her music is about society and comes from a place of hope – “how I hope we treat each other, how we deal with trauma and time becomes part of the equation. Where do you want to put your energy?”
While in Germany recently, Wachira wrote a song inspired by the drowning of so many African migrants trying to get to Europe.
“We take so much for granted and I wanted to write a song about having to pay such a high price for a better way of life,” she says, noting that today’s instant, electronic communication can lead to an overload of the many bad things in the world. “You have to keep a balance: be aware of what’s happening in the world around you but be thankful and grateful.”
Wachira, who was named Best Folk Singer in Seattle by Seattle Weekly, will appear on the Shade Stage Friday at 4:15 p.m. and at the Shade Stage Saturday at 1:45 p.m. in a workshop called Africa Smile. She is also taking part in the Aug. 13 festival Music Crawl.
Revisit the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society’s coffee house roots by attending a series of intimate performances in downtown restaurants and pubs on Thursday, Aug. 13.
• Blue Canoe – Peter Lawren Clarke at 7:45 p.m. and Tom Walbank at 9:15.
• Wicked Spoon – Jordan Dean at 7 p.m., Brent Parkin at 8:15 and Jesse Mast at 9:30.
• Shuswap Chefs – Kat Danser at 6:30 p.m., Jordan Dick Trio at 7:45.
• Shuswap Pie Co. –Dolly Vardens at 5:30 p.m., Seal Skull Hammer at 6:30.
• Hideaway Pub –Crown the Guilty at 8 p.m., Salmon Armenians at 9.
• Shuswap Theatre – Red Tail Ring at 7:30 p.m., Naomi Wachira at 8:40 p.m. and Magpie Ulysses & James Lamb at 9:30.
• Ross Street Stage – Bastet at 7 p.m.