October 15: Words and Music Series: Papa Susso and Kewulay Kamara

The second collaboration in our new Words and Music series.

Born in the village of Sotuma Sere in The Republic of Gambia, West Africa, Alhaji Papa Susso (Suntu) is a griot or jeli, master player of the kora—a 21-stringed, lute-like instrument—and director of the Koriya Musa Center for Research in Oral Tradition. In Gambia, Susso pursued a career in the civil service, before becoming the chief kora player of The Gambia National Cultural Troupe. In 1974, he founded The Mandeng Music and Dance Limited, an organization that conducts research on Mandeng history, traditions and ethnomusicology, while providing assistance for traditional Mandeng performers. Susso, now based equally in the Bronx and in Gambia, travels widely and has performed for the Baltimore, Detroit, Kalamazoo, San Antonio, St. Louis and Chicago Symphonies, the Louisiana Philharmonic of New Orleans, the Kazumi Watanabe Opera in Tokyo, Japan, and at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. In 1991, Susso was appointed Regents’ Lecturer in ethnomusicology at UC Santa Barbara.

Kewulay Kamara is poet/storyteller from Sierra Leone. His poetry and stories are based on the Mandeng oral traditions of the Jali (musicians and bards) and the Fina (poets, historians, and masters of ceremony). Kamara comes from a Fina lineage and works with the traditional ensemble format of the Jali and Fina working together. He is based in New York City where he has performed at Symphony Space, City Center, The Great Hall at Cooper Union, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum for African Art, and where he performs regularly at the Bowery Poetry Club. Kamara has been featured in numerous journals and television including the New York Times, TBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, and other media outlets. He is a regular participant in the bi-annual Peoples Poetry Gathering in New York City. He is a founder and director of Badenya, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that utilizes the presentation of African arts as a community-building and bridge-building tool.

Words and Music is a new series that facilitates intentional collaborations between writers and musicians. Six such pairings, curated by Word Up Community Bookshop, will result in six separate public performances throughout the year.

Words and Music is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

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