Alhaji Papa Susso  
 
Biography  
 

      Home
      Links
      The Koriya Musa Center
       "A Gathering of Elders" CD
      Photo Gallery

 

For booking arrangements, please contact Alhaji Papa Susso directly.

In the United States and Canada:
Alhaji Papa Susso
333 East 181st Street, Suite 3-G
Bronx, New York 10457
Tel: (718) 365-1449
(718) 733-9338
Cell: (917) 349-4346

In West Africa:
Alhaji Papa Susso
18 Samuel Forster Street
Old Jeshwang, The Gambia
West Africa
Tel: (220) 439-4441 .

e-mail: papasusso@aol.com

 


Alhaji Papa Susso (Suntu), master kora player, traditional musician, oral historian, virtuoso and director of the Koriya Musa Center for Research in Oral Tradition, was born on the 29th of September, 1947, in the village of Sotuma Sere in the Upper River Division of The Republic of Gambia, West Africa.

Papa Susso hails from a long line of Griots (traditional oral historians).  His father taught him to play the kora when he was five years old.

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

Papa, as he is commonly known, attended Bakadaji Primary School from 1963-1960.  He passed the common entrance high school examination, which allowed him to enroll as a student at the Armitage High School, Georgetown, The Gambia, from 1960-1965, where he graduated with honours.

Upon finishing high school, Papa Susso was appointed Agricultural Assistant in the Ministry of Agricultural and Natural Resources.  He held that position until he received a scholarship to attend Outington University in Suakoko, Liberia, where he received his bachelor of arts degree in business administration in 1969.

On his return to The Gambia, Papa Susso joined the civil service of The Gambia government as a Senior Accountant in the Ministry of Work and Communications.  Papa has also served as Financial Attaché and Liaison Officer for The Gambia Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of Liberia, Guinea and The Ivory Coast.  Papa Susso later resigned to go back 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 under the Ministry of Education and Culture.

In 1974, he resigned and formed his own cultural organization: The Manding Music and Dance Limited.  The objectives of this organization include: a) conducting research and carrying out studies into the history, traditions and ethnomusicology of Manding; b) carrying on the business and assisting the performing artists in the presentation of music and folklore of Manding; and, c) reviving, exposing and promoting a better understanding and appreciation of the music culture of the Manding.

Papa Susso is a Muslim by religion.  He has traveled quite extensively to East, West and Central Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States of America,, spreading his special message of peace and love.

He has performed for several heads of state and government and the United Nations Organization.  Papa Susso has also performed with several symphony orchestras.  He is a premier performer in the "American Classic African Portraits" by Hannibal Peterson.  He performed at New York City's 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, Tokyo, Japan.

 Papa Susso has also been appointed as Regents' Lecturer in ethnomusicology in 1991 at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  The Regents' Lecture and Professorship Program is designed to bring to campus distinguished leaders in the arts, sciences,, business and politics, whose careers have been largely outside the academic area.  As Regents' Lecturer in ethnomusicology, Papa Bunka Susso has been participating in discussions with students and faculty and joining in informal talks with interested parties.