AUSG’s SUB brings R&B, neo-soul artist UMI to the virtual stage

UMI’s "unique and nostalgic" music invited audiences in for a calming concert

AUSG’s SUB brings R&B, neo-soul artist UMI to the virtual stage

R&B and neo-soul singer, UMI, played a seven-song set, accompanied by guitarist Mia Garcia, during a virtual concert Thursday organized by AUSG SUB. (left: Mia Garcia, right: UMI). 

In a time of isolation, R&B and neo-soul singer, UMI, intimately welcomed the American University student body into her home as she sang a fully-acoustic mix of original songs and covers. UMI, accompanied by guitarist Mia Garcia, performed a preview of the new acoustic version of her song “Remember Me,” which was released on all streaming platforms on Friday at midnight. 

The AUSG Student Union Board brought UMI to virtually perform on Thursday night. After the performance, students Kaniya Harris and Rory Hayes of the Women’s Initiative moderated a Q&A with UMI. 

Before beginning her set, UMI led the audience through a guided meditation to ease their minds and make sure everyone was present during the show. She led a series of breathing exercises and sent audience members affirmations. Once done, she invited audience members to keep their eyes closed as she performed the rest of the concert, if they were inclined to do so. 

UMI played a seven-song set, including “Butterfly.” She explained that she wrote “Butterfly” during a time when she was uncertain about where she was in life. A butterfly flew across her window while songwriting, serving as confirmation to her that everything will be okay and that she is protected and guided. 

With a voice reflective of British R&B and neo-soul artist, Corinne Bailey Rae, UMI’s cover of “Put Your Records On” was uncanny and nostalgic. Listing Frank Ocean as one of her musical inspirations, along with SZA and Lauryn Hill, she asked audience members to keep their eyes closed during her rendition of Ocean’s 2012 song “Thinkin Bout You” in hopes it would be meditative. 

During the Q&A at the end of her performance, UMI, a Black Japanese American, said that her wide array of music consumption growing up, from gospel to Japanese pop, inspired her music’s unique sound. She said that she loves writing songs in languages other than English, such as her song “Sukidakara,” which she describes as a song about being a hopeless romantic. 

Once the coronavirus pandemic is under control, UMI said that she is looking forward to traveling and going on tour. At the end of this year, she plans to release an album that she can’t wait to play live. 

Despite the disruption to live concerts, the pandemic has taught UMI to redefine happiness from something big to something small.

“Happiness is when I wake up, and the sun is hitting my face,” UMI said during the Q&A. “Happiness is my favorite song coming on shuffle.”

Even while live concerts are a distant bittersweet memory for most, UMI’s sound and sweetness playing over computer speakers brought a familiar warmth D.C. craves in the dead of winter.

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