Foday Musa Suso

Contact artist


Foday Musa SUSO is an internationally recognized musician and a Mandingo griot (musician/oral historian of the Mandingo people) born in West Africa. Suso grew up in a society where griots function as walking libraries, singing their stories for the community while providing history, wisdom, and entertainment. Tribal conflicts, empires and kingdoms, cultural heroes, and family lineage are part of his traditional repertoire which encompasses extensive verbal and musical recitations. In addition to his virtuosic kora (West African 21-stringed harp lute) playing and singing, Suso is also a drummer and composer.He was born in the West African nation of Gambia and spent his childhood on a peanut farm, studying music and history as an heir to the hereditary griot lineage. After years of rigorous study he left his homeland and established himself in Chicago in the 1970's.Since that time he has performed throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. Interested in both traditional and cutting edge idioms, Suso has toured and recorded with many prominent musicians including Herbie Hancock, Philip Glass, Pharoah Sanders, and Ginger Baker.In addition, Suso has worked closely with the Kronos Quartet, an ensemble who commissioned him to compose five works. They collaborated at venues ranging from New York's Lincoln Center and California's Institute of the Arts to the Staatsoper Opera House in Vienna, Austria and the Royal Festival Hall in London. Performing with a variety of other artists, as a soloist, or as leader and founder of the fusion jazz band, The Mandingo Griot Society, Suso has also appeared at New York's Carnegie Hall and Central Park Summerstage, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Frankfurt International Jazz Festival in Germany and at the Cultural Center in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.Among the many record labels Suso has recorded for are:Island, Lyrichord, Folkways, Axiom, CBS, Sony, Flying Fish, Celluloid, CMP, Point Music/Philips Classics, Ellipsis Arts, Rhizome Sketch, Polygram, and Elektra Nonesuch. He has also performed on several film soundtracks including Roots, Powaqqatsi, and Mountain of the Moon. Other career high- lights include working as a performer and consultant for a Japanese documentary film on African music and the book/CD, Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond. (via