The Senegambian Jazz Band’s Amadou Suso gives us the lowdown on his new musical project

The Senegambian Jazz Band’s Amadou Suso gives us the lowdown on his new musical project

The Senegambian Jazz Band
Words by Marnie Vinall

Amadou Suso has been an instrumental member of the recent Melbourne jazz boom with his band The Senegambian Jazz Band, who fuse Afro jazz and funk.

The band’s frontman, Suso doubles as a virtuoso kora player, a traditional West African stringed instrument. His mastery of the instrument is really no surprise given he’s a direct descendant of the world’s first kora player, Koriang Musa Suso. 

Since 2015, he and the band have been delivering contemporary sounds to the Melbourne community and sharing their cultural stories through sound. For Suso, this has been a great vehicle to amplify the traditional music of the Mandinka people from West Africa.

Now, the musician is ready for yet another challenge and is melding a range of different genres to form the band Amadou & Friends, who will be taking up residency at Abbotsford’s Bodriggy Brewing Co. next month.

The newly formed band will be taking the stage and entertaining the beer-drinkers and burger-eaters with a range of sounds created by an ensemble spanning drums, guitar, bass, saxophone and, of course, the kora.

When asked what the band will play, he replied simply, “Just a bit of everything”.

Given the varying backgrounds of each band member, as Suso tells us, you can expect to hear a fusion of “jazz, afro-jazz, funk, reggae, blues, pop and traditional music”. And of course, with Suso playing the kora, traditional West African sounds will also make a strong appearance.

With this, the Gambian instrumentalist doesn’t hesitate to note the complexities at hand.

“It’s a big challenge but we’re rehearsing to make sure we get the songs right. It’s very important to me to play traditional and play it properly,” Suso explains.

“I feel like it’s important for people to hear something that they’ve never heard or something that they’re not familiar with. 

“Cause I mean, music is like an ocean. We all have our own personal stuff – you know. Gambian, reggae, jazz, these are all different kinds of music. So, me showing my friends traditional stuff, it’s a challenge, man”.

It’s hard to miss the enthusiasm in his voice as he says this. Although, he’s been in the music game for a while now – playing since the age of five – it’s clear that this new residency is just another chance to do what he loves and share his traditional art.

“It’s important for me to share my talents and give teachings of my culture through music. Playing the kora into jazz music and blues, I mean, that’s not something everybody does,” he explains.

And when it comes to traditional Gambian music, it’s fair to say that Suso has it in his DNA, hailing from a hugely successful musical family. As he tells us, his mother played in one of the biggest bands in Gambia and travelled all over the world. Similarly, his father toured globally playing the kora before coming to Australia in the ‘80s.

“My whole family are musical,” he says. “My grandmother, she was the one who taught me how to sing, she was a great singer and in the national ensemble for Gambia.”

Yet even with the ancestry of talent, he’s always looking to learn more and improve his craft. As he puts it, “everybody needs a challenge”.

“I always want to learn new stuff that I don’t know because that’s how you can improve your skills and take your talent to the next level – because everybody needs a challenge,” he claims.

And what better place for Amadou & Friends to debut their new collective than with a residency slot every Thursday in March at Bodriggy? The Abbotsford venue is famous across Melbourne for a good pint and plate of food, so an accompaniment of good tunes just makes sense.

Amadou & Friends perform at Bodriggy Brewing Co. every Thursday in March. Find out more via the Bodriggy Facebook page.