Seattle afro-folk singer addresses race and gender identity with powerful lyrics
written by Lindsay McWilliams | featured photo by Stanton J. Stevens
The lyrics to Naomi Wachira’s powerful folk songs are purposely simple: “If a woman in Nepal is listening to my music, and she speaks English, I want her to understand what I’m saying,” the Seattle singer said. This statement speaks to Wachira’s ideas about the universality of the human race. “No matter where we come from, there are things that we all share.”
She knows this from experience, moving from her hometown of Kijabe, Kenya to the United States as a young adult. In Kijabe, she grew up singing gospel music in the family band, which accounts for her taste in tight harmonies and positive messages.
In songs such as African Girl and I Am A Woman, she writes about her identity as both woman and African immigrant, identities that are controversial in today’s political climate. For her, the current social climate solidifies why she writes, why she must keep affirming who she is. “I would rather light a candle in the darkness than keep screaming into the darkness,” Wachira said.
Her forthcoming album, Song of Lament, addresses many of these same themes but with diversified instruments such as horns and strings. Expected to release in May, this album remains true to Wachira’s value of straightforward lyrics that can be understood outside their cultural context—a value she realized when she began writing music seven years ago. “There is power in the simple.”