Susso is a collaborative project between the members to the celebrated Suso /Susso and Kuyateh griot (musician and storytellers) families and UK bassist/ producer Huw Bennett. The music is inspired by, and directly samples the magnificent sounds of the Mandinka people, recorded in Gambia, 2013. Initially traveling with the aim to gain perspective as a musician and to discover a new world of music first hand, Huw found himself humbled by such a welcoming community of artists. Huw's guide and teacher of traditional Mandinka repertoire was Yusupha Suso (who features heavily on the album), son of internationally renowned griot Mawdo Suso and master balafon in his own right. In return Huw was found a bass guitar and asked to perform with the families band, fronted by Yusupha's Mother and his sisters.
The tracks are composed entirely from original source material and Huw's talents as a producer and multi-instrumentalist; performing tuned percussion brought back from the region including the 21 keyed Mandinka balafon, Kutiringding drum, as well as drawing on his skill as a professional upright/ electric bassist. The beat and jazz scene happening in Huw’s current home of South East London of course influences the music produced, but through Huw's conscientious and sensitive approach, the traditional sounds are treated with respect and retain a true Gambian aesthetic.
To further promote the record and benefit these families of musicians and the project, Huw decided to form a 6 piece live band, comprising of UK based Mandinka and Wolof musicians from Gambia and Senegal, as well as musicians from the London jazz and electronic music scenes. Together they subtly marry the core Mandinka sounds of the Kora, Balafon, Djembe, Dun Dun with analog synth sounds and weighty Afrobeat grooves. The result is an intense, beautiful and unpredictable live show where each musician is focused on creating this new musical fusion, but remains dedicated to learning and referencing these West African traditions and its repertoire.
Credits and featured artists:
Keira: Speech by the great, young Griot Muhamadou Saho, describing the prominent Mandinka song Keira. Keira is performed by singer Jabou Kuyateh and the people of Foday Kunda village, a village I kept returning to for its strong traditions and inspirational people. Mamadou: Balafon originally performed by Alagi Kuyateh.Recorded in his brother’s compound in Foday Kunda. Bani: Bani, another traditional song performed by Jabou Kuyateh and accompanied by her nephew Yusupha Suso on the balafon. Recorded in Foday Kunda. Speech by Wolof griot Demba Danjo, recorded in Sukuta, explaining that the meaning of the song Bani is rather simple “everything will be fine… no matter what life will bring, everything that will be what it is” (trans: Alfo Sainey Suso). Ansumana: Kora performed by Ansumana Suso, performing his own “remix” of traditional tune Kuruntukelefa. Recorded in his fathers compound, Suso Kunda in Sukuta. The Iman’s first call to prayer was recorded from the rooftops of Basse Santa Su. Foday Kunda: We hear the school girls of Foday Kunda led by Nyima Kuyateh (16 years old). Suso Kunda: This is another version of the song Keira, performed by Ansumana Suso (Kora) and Demba Danjo (Ngoni) in the Suso Kunda compound, Sukuta. These were the last sounds I recorded in Gambia, as I left that morning for Senegal. Alagi: Balafon and vocals by Alagi Kuyateh. Recorded in Foday Kunda. The sounds of the Iman recorded from the taxi driver’s radio as I started my first journey from Sukuta to Basse. Tomora: Vocals, Kora and speech by Alagi Mbye, performing the song Cheddo in the one of the older tunings called Tomora. Recorded in the early hours of the morning in his compound, just outside Latrikunda. Kankurang: Recordings taken from a Kankurang marriage ceremony between people from Foday Kunda and Kambelleh villages. Singers led by Jabou Kuyateh. Ngoni originally performed by Demba Danjo. The drummers were led by the Kutirindingo drum, performed by Sainey Banora. Speech also by Sainey Banora, explaining that the Kankurang was traditionally a male circumcision ceremony, but has now long been adopted by Women as a marriage dance. Son Kunda: Vocals by sisters Nyaka Saho and Kani Saho. Recorded in Son Kunda, the village of Yusupha’s mother. Additional speech by Alagi Kuyateh, instructing everyone gathered in the village to have a good time, as they “… are being recorded by the Taubab”.
Every musician and their family were paid properly for every recording session that was made during the two month journey. Huw takes great pride in being able to name their role here in their music, and further royalties from this record shall of course be given to these magnificent musicians.