Foday Musa Suso  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Foday Musa Suso (born in Sarre Hamadi Village, Wuli District, in the Upper River Division of eastern Gambia) is a musician and composer from the West African nation of Gambia. He is a member of the Mandinka ethnic group, and is a jali. Griots are the oral historians and musicians of the Mandingo people who live in several west African nations. Griots are a living library for the community providing history, entertainment, and wisdom while playing and singing their songs. It is an extensive verbal and musical heritage that can only be passed down within a griot family.

Suso is a direct descendent of Jali Madi Wlen Suso, the griot who invented the kora over four centuries ago. He spent his childhood in a traditional Gambian village, in a household filled with kora music. Though his father was a master kora player, in griot tradition a father does not teach his own children the instrument. When Foday was 9, his father sent him to live with master kora teacher Sekou Suso in the village of Pasamasi, Wuli District. He trained with Sekou Suso until the age of 18. Suso's primary instrument is the kora, but he also plays the gravikord and several other instruments.

Suso emigrated to Chicago in 1977, being one of the first jalis to relocate to North America. Once in Chicago, he formed the Mandingo Griot Society, which played fusion music around the world. He has performed with Bill Laswell, Philip Glass, Pharoah Sanders, Jack DeJohnette, Ginger Baker, Paul Simon and the Kronos Quartet. He has contributed to music for the Olympic Games in 1984 and 2004.

His electrified kora can also be heard on several tracks on Herbie Hancock's 1984 electro-funk album Sound-System. The following year, Suso and Hancock came out with another album, Village Life, that consists entirely of duets between them, Hancock on synthesizer and Suso on kora, talking drums, and vocals.


  • 1970 - Kora Music from Gambia (Folkways Records)
  • 1979 - Mandingo Griot Society (Flying Fish)
  • 1982 - Mighty Rhythm (Flying Fish)
  • 1984 - Hand Power (Flying Fish)
  • 1984 - Herbie Hancock, Sound-System (Columbia) (guest appearances)
  • 1985 - Village Life with Herbie Hancock (Columbia)
  • 1986 - Mansa Bendung (Flying Fish)
  • 1990 - The Dreamtime (CMP)
  • 1992 - Philip Glass and Foday Musa Suso: Music from The Screens (POINT Music)
  • 1995 - Possession + African Dub "Off World One" (with Bill Laswell) (Sub Meta)
  • 2005 - Music from the Hearts of the Masters (with Jack DeJohnette) (Kindred Rhythm)
  • 2008 - The Two Worlds (Orange Mountain Music)
  • 2012 - "Koralations: Heart to Heart" with Gretchen Rowe (African Kora meets American Poetry)


  • Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa & Beyond (1996). Book and CD set. Ellipsis Arts.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Foday Musa Suso" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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