Alhaji Papa Susso, master kora player, traditional musician, oral historian.

Papa Susso descends from a long line of Griots, traditional oral historians. He began learning kora from his father at the age of five.

The kora was invented by the "Susso" family of the Mandinka tribe of the Minding Empire. The kora is a 21 stringed harp-lute unique to Western Africa, and is meant to be played only by the Jali, professional musicians, praise singers and oral historians, who were traditionally attached to royal courts. Their duties included recounting tribal history and genealogy, composing commemorative songs at important tribal events.

After a career in the civil service in Gambia, Papa `Susso returned to his traditional role as a kora player so that he could keep his African culture alive. He became the chief kora player of the Gambia National Cultural Troupe.

In 1974, he resigned and formed the Manding Music and Dance Limited. The objectives of the organization are to conduct research and carry out studies into the history, traditions and ethnomusicology of Manding, and to carry on the business and 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 Manding.

Papa Susso is a premier performer in the "American Classic African Portraits" by Hannibal Peterson. He has performed at Carnegie Hall twice, for the Baltimore, ?Detroit, Kalamazoo, San Antonio, St Louis and Chicago Symphonies; the Louisiana Philharmonic of New Orleans, and Kazumi Watanabe Opera in Tokyo. In 1991 he was appointed Regent’s Lecturer in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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John J. McClintock 1996
Updated 8/30/2002