Foday Musa Suso is a Mandingo griot (the griot is the hereditary musician/oral historian of the Mandingo people). He is a virtuoso kora player, drummer, and composer. Suso was born in the Sarre Hamadi Village, Wuli District, in the West African nation of Gambia. Initially taught by his father, at the age of eleven Suso was sent away to study under a master kora player, Saikou Suso, of the Pasamasi Village. After undergoing seven years of rigorous study, at age eighteen he became a full-fledged griot.

He then journeyed throughout Africa singing traditional Mandingo songs, and played clubs, concerts, and radio and television programs in Germany, France, Sweden, and Finland. From 1975 through 1977 he held the post of Kora Instructor at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.

In 1977, Suso established himself in the United States, founding the Mandingo Griot Society where he taught jazz musicians to play new arrangements of Mandingo music. Their first record featured the late American jazz musician Don Cherry.

In 1984, the organizing committee of the Olympic games approached Herbie Hancock for the composition of the official theme music for the field events. Wanting to evoke the roots of man, Herbie turned to Suso. Their collaboration resulted in the rousing "Junku," and continued with Suso composing for Herbie's next album, "Sound System," and later with the highly acclaimed duet album, "Village Life."

Suso was a featured instrumentalist on the Philip Glass soundtrack for the film Powaqattsi, and collaborated with Glass on the score for the American premiere of Jean Genet's The Screens, which opened at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater in the fall of 1989, and was recently released on Glass' Point Music label for Philips.

Suso has toured with the Kronos String Quartet and their recordings are part of the Pieces of Africa release on the Elektra Nonesuch label.

Music excerpt:
Mr. Suso #2 with Reflection

performed by the Philip Glass Sensemble with Foday Musa Suso
Nonesuch 979192-2 (c) & (p) 1988 Electra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records


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