Born in a Gambian griot family, kora virtuoso and afro-fusion pioneer Jally Kebba Susso has been active in the UK music scene for twenty years. While based in London, he has tirelessly, through both personal and collective endeavours, built a singular musical identity by working hard on making the timeless Mandinka kora, an instrument he’s been playing since his youth, sound like never before, combining the ancient West African strings with forward-thinking aesthetics and myriad of musicians and producers from the thriving London music scene such as Onipa, Dark Sky and Kay Suzuki.
Jally Kebba Susso has already released two albums as a solo musician (“Malaye Warr”, 2012 and “Banjul – London”, 2017), as well as a member of the successful afro-fusion band Afriquoi, whose latest EP has garnered a very wide support, culminating in several million streams and performances on some of UK’s biggest festival stages (Boomtown, Glastonbury).
Freedom! A heartfelt shout expressing the newfound joy of an African musician whose working conditions, despite his long-standing roots in the London music scene, have sometimes been precarious.
A newfound freedom to be able to look ahead and fully persue one’s need of self-actualisation. Hence this new EP, written with the help of Jally’s accomplished band members (Yuval Juba Wetzler, Nim Sadot and Oli Arlotto) and produced by Tom Excell (Onipa, Nubiyan Twist), whose 4 tracks all deal with topics (identity, homesickness, family, social justice) which are dear to Jally’s heart as a Gambian native and West African musician settled in Europe.
A pleasant atmospheric opener, “Wulu Doula” rides on a classic Afrobeat groove, while Jally reminds us how we are only what we become, no matter where we come from and who we inherit from.
“Justice” is a stomping mandinka funk hit, in which “freedom, equal rights and justice” are claimed by Jally for all fellow artists and musicians from the West African diaspora working in Europe.
Clearly anchored in Gambian music tropes and reminiscent of the pioneering mandinka fusion of Ifang Bondi, “Fakoly” tells the story of Jally’s family lineage, as a member of the 74th Susso generation. As Jally puts it, “being a griot is a way of life”.
Homesickness can be a bitter feeling. But you can turn it around. That is exactly what Jally achieves with “Banjul”, a cheerful, funky tribute to the Gambian capital, in which Jally grew up, learning words of wisdom from his elders.