Nepo Soteri is a survivor of the Rwandan civil war. His music is directly influenced by the raw rhythms and stylized sounds unique to such African countries as Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia where he spent his youth traveling as a refugee. Now living in New York, guitarist-bassist, singer, composer and virtuoso instrumentalist, draws inspiration from the music of his youth, to create his own trademark sounds filled with soulful, World Jazz, spiced with a twist of Funk and R&B and mellowed with an ageless African World Beat.
His childhood experiences of daily struggle simply to survive as a refugee from a civil war-torn nation, hardened Nepo’s determination to become educated. This drove him to escape from the Kimuli Refugee Camp in Tanzania to head to Kenya for opportunities of schooling, leaving his family behind. But he never forgot his experiences of singing in the church, his mother’s encouragement to keep singing , drumming and filling his life with music and the thrill he would get when sneaking away at night to watch the Watwa pigmies play their infectious music and dancing all night long. These memories would instill in Nepo the beginning of a lifelong thirst to learn and play music incessantly.
His first performance was at the age of ten, when he sang and danced before the President of Tanzania. It’s been a long journey from that first performance in Tanzania to his regular appearances throughout New York City’s clubs and prestigious venues. He began playing in local bands in Nairobi’, Kenya’s famous Starlight Club. He moved about from city to city in Kenya and Ethiopia. In each new city he picked up new sounds, like the blending of African and Arab elements , the use of five-tone melodic structures of Ethiopian pop, Congolese guitar driven, rumba based grooves, afro beat style of Fela Kuti,or the world beat style of African band Osibisa. He also loved many of the different American styles of music and was inspired by various artists such as George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Nepo’s music evolved into his own unique eclectic style that blended pieces of all these different styles and rhythms.
Nepo’s world travels continued into Europe, and finally to his golden dream of America, to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston Ma. He had heard of Berklee from reading a Down Beat magazine given to him by, Jimmy Woode, the former bass player for Duke Ellington, who was to become Nepo’s musical mentor and life long friend. Nepo was obsessed with the idea of attending Berklee to learn music. It took him seven long years of determination through the maze of visas and money but never gave up his dream and finally he made it. Unfortunately his dream became short lived once his money ran out and his visa expired. He stayed in Boston and continued his musical pursuits on the streets and in the clubs, forming his own band Asante. In 1985 a U.S. Immigration amnesty program came into effect and, after 28 years of being a refugee, a man without a country, Nepo Soteri, finally became the citizen of a county, the United States. He was able to later continue his musical studies in New York at the Bass & Drum collective, under the guidance of amazing bass players such as John Pattituci, Nielson Matta,Leo Traversa to mention few…
Now living in New York City with his wife and daughter, his group, Nepo & Africa-Meets-World performs at notable clubs throughout the city such as the Zinc Bar, and the Europa Night Club. Among his many featured performance, he’s performed at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He regularly works with several well-known New York combos. In 2005, he participated with TR Touch on music for the soundtrack to “The Sopranos,” TV show and in 2006 he appeared on Fox Channel Five with the Island Boys Band.