Salieu Suso: a serious practitioner of an art that dates back to the earliest days of the Malian empire.

Concert review by Augusta Palmer

Every Friday night between 8 and 11 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, you can be part of a musical tradition that’s almost 1000 years old. That’s the time that Sulieu Suso plays kora every week at Le Grand Dakar, Chef Pierre Thiam’s elegant restaurant.

A native of Senegambia, Mr. Suso has been playing the kora, an instrument made from a hollow gourd fitted with a rosewood neck and with 21 strings, since he began studying with his father at age 8. Sulieu Suso is a descendent of JaliMady Walyn Suso, who is often credited with inventing the instrument, and he’s a serious practitioner of an art that dates back to the earliest days of the Malian empire.

There are few instruments that instill a sense of uplift and peace like the kora, and Mr. Suso plays it masterfully. I’d heard him play twice recently with Randy Weston, and was delighted to hear that he has a regular weekly solo gig just a few blocks from my house.

Suso sings as he plays and introduces each song in English, quietly telling his audience the story line or subject of his compositions. He came around during a short break and talked to every member of the audience with warmth and grounded generosity.

Three hours passed in a flash while I was listening to the lilting sounds of the kora, accompanied by Mr. Suso’s rich singing, and I couldn’t resist buying his CD, which I’ve been listening to every chance I get. I already owned a great recording of Mr. Suso on the Folkways compilation Badenya: Manden Jaliya in New York City, and now I hope to hear more of his work, which includes collaboration with Pharaoh Sanders and his own Lyrichord album, Griot. But I’ll also be heading back as soon as I can to hear him live, singing his ancestors’ songs and his own in an intimate environment that just happens to serve incredible food.