GAMBIAN VIRTUOSO KORA PLAYER SURA SUSSO TO RELEASE SECOND ALBUM TODAY
Tili Saba comes nearly a decade after his debut album, Sila Kang. Whereas Sila Kang documented a personal journey, Tili Saba was created with community and cohesion in mind. It is therefore by no accident that the album was produced with contributions from many amazing musicians and other creatives both in The Gambia and the UK.
Tili Saba carries the listener on a journey across periods and settings, immersing them in the warm and uplifting sounds of Gambian music. Nyancho, an upbeat, multilayered rearrangement of an antique traditional composition was, amongst others, recorded with some of the best Gambian instrumentalists, including Kebba Taylor on the bass guitar and Yusupha Suso on the balafon. Recorded between The Gambia and the UK, the album includes contributions from Sura’s brilliant brother Suntou Susso as percussionist (Suntou is also a kora player) and the golden voice of his sister, Binta Suso, as backing vocalist.
The song Molu explores modern Gambian sounds, blending digitally produced beats with the Kora, the Sabar and the Tama. On this track, Sura worked with one of Gambia’s top producers, Jlive Music. Molu was released as a single on 31st. December 2020 and still enjoys extensive airplay on Gambian radios.
Sura Susso is long known for experimenting with differing genres, which has led him to perform and record in a number of interesting cross-cultural settings, including collaborations with the great British-German violinist Maximilian Baillie, Chinese erhu player Ling Peng and French jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz. In this new album, Sura collaborates with his longtime friend and fellow musician, the talented multi-instrumentalist Pete Josef to create 2 magnificent and mesmerising instrumental pieces (kora & piano), Sabally (track 2) and Makki (track 8). The two artistes are already talking about making a full album together.
One of the highlights of the album is the song Kata Keh. It is the only solo piece in the album. The soulful strings of the kora and Sura’s lone, melancholic voice allows a thorough appreciation of his talents as a singer, songwriter and kora player.
Tili Saba means three days in Mandinka. The expression comes from an old adage which says, ‘The world is made up of three days, yesterday, today and tomorrow.’ The expression symbolizes the transition of time and carries wisdom rooted in recognition of the transient nature of the world. For Sura, Tili Saba embodies this expression—it explores the past, draws inspiration from the present and contemplates the future through the Kora and its journey across centuries.
Sura Susso was born in The Gambia, into a family of griots. Griots, referred to in Mandinka as Jali, are cultural figures in society across West Africa who carry the cultural knowledge and identity of the people. This hereditary legacy stretches back hundreds of years. Traditionally, the knowledge and history surrounding the kora are passed on from father to son. Griots are orators, lyricists and musicians who are also respected as a source of advice and spiritual guidance. They have an important role in key ceremonies such as naming ceremonies, and marriages.
Sura moved to the UK at the age of seventeen, as the percussionist in his brother’s band, the Seckou Keita Quintet. Since his arrival in the UK, Sura has performed as a solo act as well as part of collaborations, taking part in more than five hundred shows and festivals in over thirty different countries spanning every continent. He has worked with and performed alongside renown international musicians which include Baaba Maal, Rokia Traore, Habib Koite and Sona Jobarteh.
His quest to promote the traditional music from his cultural roots in The Gambia and his fascination with experimenting new genres have led him to perform and record in a number of interesting cross-cultural settings, including collaborations with the great British-German violinist Maximilian Baillie, Chinese erhu player Ling Peng, Indian sitarist Purbayan Chatterjee, French jazz trumpeter Erik Truffaz, South African opera singer Pumeza, Spanish-Senegalese band Africai, British multi-instrumentalist Pete Josef and an album with the duo ‘Askew and Avis’, called Kora Song Radio.
Sura’s debut album Sila Kang was released on KuliMarow Music on the 20th of June 2011. Sila Kang, meaning ‘on the road’, was a reflection on his journey as a young musician. Infused with passion and youthful vigor yet contemplative, the album received extensive airplay and critical acclaim in national publications in the UK.
Sura Susso is very grateful to Arts Council England for part-funding this new album
Pa Salieu, British-Gambian music sensation
Gq-magazine: When he was young, 23-year-old rapper Pa Salieu was sent to live in Gambia with his grandparents. Those early experiences have subtly moulded him into the man and the artist he is today. The stay in The Gambia taught Pa about his history and ‘how unapologetic I could be about myself,’ he says. ‘I know who I am, I know my family.’
The fallout from that sense of clarity is found in his music. Hailing from Coventry, he has a cadence that is gruff but firm. A subtle Gambian inflection creeps into his melodic drawls. Breakout single Frontline – recorded two years ago but released in January 2020 – sees him writhe over haunting, moaning drums and wailing sirens as he brings listeners into the bleak landscapes of Coventry’s inner city.
The city ‘has shaped who I am,’ he says. ‘Coventry is just like any other city in England: break down or make it out – no matter how.’
His most recent release, My Family, with London rapper BackRoad Gee, has been a slow burn, gradually becoming a contender for British rap’s anthem of 2020. The pair trade sharp verses and hooks, peppering their lines with war stories from the West Midlands and the East End. A brooding yet militant instrumental holds their tales at the seam.
It’s a signpost for what is to come. In lockdown, Pa has begun work on his debut project – and in the process is learning ‘what it is to be an artist’. Through the project, he is ‘trying to touch on where I’m coming from – Coventry. But I come from Gambia as well. You’re going to hear the essence of that, you’re going to get that picture.’