- Category: PA 2006
ALHAJI PAPA SUSSO is a master kora player and an oral historian born on 29 September 1947 in the village of Sotuma Sere in Gambia. He hails from a long line of Griots (traditional oral historians) of the Mandinka people and has been playing the kora since the age of five.The kora is 21-stringed harp-lute, evolved from earlier hunter harps used by the Mandinka people of West Africa. Papa Susso went to school in Gambia and received his B.A. degree in 1969 from Outington University in Suakoko, Liberia.
He pursued a career in The Gambian Civil Service for several years before returning to his traditional role as a kora player to help preserve his African culture, Becoming the chief kora player of the Gambian National Cultural Troupe. In 1974, he resigned from the group to form‘The Manding Music and Dance Limited’, a company dedicated to conducting research and carrying out studies into the history, traditions and ethnomusicology of Manding. He says its aim is also “to carry on the business and to assist the performing artists in the presentation of music and folklore of Manding and to revive, expose and promote a better understanding and appreciation of the music culture of the Manding.
” Papa Susso has performed in several countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and North America, and in venues such as New York City’s Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in the African Odyssey series production of Sundiata: Lion King of Mali.
In 1991, he was appointed as Regents’ Lecturer in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also the director at the Koriya Musa Research Center in Gambia, which was established in order to promote research into traditional cultures of the area. Today Papa Susso is a goodwill ambassador traveling all over the world, giving both classroom presentations and formal concert performances where he recounts the history of his country and his people, discusses the roles of griots in West African culture and performs the classics songs of the griot repertoire.
He has 2 albums, S otuma-Sere which is a mix of imploring praise proverbs and A Gathering of Elders: (Water Lily Acoustics) that mixes ancient koramelodies and African-American rhythms.