Jali Kunda
Foday Musa Suso: Jali Kunda (1996)

Born in The Gambia in 1950, Foday Musa Suso is a traditional West African Griot or Jali (an oral historian, storyteller and musician) and a master of the kora, the 21-string traditional African harp. In 1977, the musician relocated to Chicago and has since collaborated with dozens of musicians including Philip Glass, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders or the Kronos Quartet on various fusion projects.

In 1996, Foday Musa Suso produced Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa and Beyond, a book and 75mn CD featuring traditional kora music recorded in The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. It also includes three “modern” tracks, among which is a collaboration with composer Philip Glass. The pair had already collaborated in 1988 on the score to Powaqqatsi and in 1992 on Music for the Screens, a production of the eponymous play by Jean Genet. “Spring Waterfall” is a wonderful track featuring one of these long and dreamy monologues on the kora with the musician exploring every nook and cranny of the melody.

Glass speaks of “Spring Waterfall”, the music he and Suso created for Jali Kunda, as a “guided collaboration”. First, Suso laid down a kora track. Then Glass created three tracks, each focusing on a different range of the piano (bass, mid-range, and treble). “The best way to make music with Suso is to talk about it as we play”, says Glass. “His isn’t a tradition that’s strongly analytical.”