Nyama Suso (born Mohamadu Lamin Suso), the legendary Manding music
Kora player was born around 1925 & died in 1991 of tuberculosis
which he was infected with in 1986. He was famous in The Gambia
for his weekly show on Radio Gambia & is acknowledged as one
of the greatest kora players of the 20th century. By the time
he was 8 years old he was already proficient with the lute.
As a youth the first song he learned was "Kelefaba,"
about the 19th century Kelefa Saane who was a warrior of the aristocracy
As his career progressed he travelled widely to play at weddings
and social functions, but his peripatetic employment was severely
curtailed when, aged 16, he lost a leg after a bad fall. He concentrated
instead on establishing a career in radio, beginning in 1956.
His popularity rose with these appearances, and by the mid-60s
he was a nationally celebrated figure, enjoying the patronage
of President Jawara's first wife. Jawara apparently appointed
him as arranger to the Gambian national anthem, 'Fode Kabba'.
Afterwards he would be critical of the government (following Jawara's
divorce). Later, after two musicologists visited the region he
took the opportunity to travel back with them to the USA instead.
While he was a resident artist at the University of Washington
(between 1971 - 1972) he recorded his first solo album, released
on the OCORA label titled Gambie: Mandinka kora par Jali Nyama
Suso. He was back at the university between 1972-73.
He additionally penned the song "Kinte's Tune" for Alex
Haley's "Roots" television adaptation. Significantly,
this was the show which first acknowledged black America's tidal
wave of empathy with the African experience and the moral debt
of colonialism. In the 80s he he toured in England, Germany, France,
Jali Nyama Suso is famous for being the first
Kora player to teach the kora outside of Africa!
& Video (Oberlin College)
Professor Roderic Knight
African Journey: Roots Of The Blues (SNTF 1973)
The Griots: Masters Of The Spoken Word (FE 1975)
Songs From The Gambia (SNTF 1977)
• Kora Music From Gambia July 1984,
• Gambie: L'Art
De La Kora expanded reissue of Mandinka Kora (Ocora 1996)
• "L'art de la kora" (Ocora