Jali 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
As a youth the first song he learned was "Kelefaba,"
about the 19th century Kelefa Saane who was a warrior
of the aristocracy of Kaabu.
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
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, and Sweden.
Jali Nyama Suso is famous for being the first Kora player
to teach the kora outside of Africa!
/ Music Downloads:
& Video (Oberlin College)
Professor Roderic Knight
African Journey: Roots Of The Blues (SNTF
• The Griots:
Masters Of The Spoken Word (FE 1975)
Songs From The Gambia (SNTF 1977)
Kora Music From Gambia
July 1984, Berlin
L'Art De La Kora expanded reissue of Mandinka
Kora (Ocora 1996)
de la kora" (Ocora 1997)