Foday Musa Suso (born in Sarre Hamadi Village, Wuli District, in the Upper River Division of the eastern Gambia) is a musician and composer from the Gambia. He is a member of the Mandinka ethnic group, and is a griot. Griots are the oral historians and musicians of the Mandingo people who live in several west African nations. Griots are a living library for the community providing history, entertainment, and wisdom while playing and singing their songs. It is an extensive verbal and musical heritage that can only be passed down within a griot family.
Suso is a direct descendent of Jali Madi Wlen Suso, the griot who invented the kora over four centuries ago. He spent his childhood in a traditional Gambian village, in a household filled with kora music. Though his father was a master kora player, in griot tradition a father does not teach his own children the instrument. When Foday was 9, his father sent him to live with master kora teacher Sekou Suso in the village of Pasamasi, Wuli District. He trained with Sekou Suso until the age of 18. Suso's primary instrument is the kora, but he also plays the gravikord and several other instruments.
Suso emigrated to Chicago in 1977, being one of the first jalis to relocate to North America. Once in Chicago, he formed the Mandingo Griot Society, which played fusion music around the world. He has performed with Bill Laswell, Philip Glass, Pharoah Sanders, Jack DeJohnette, Ginger Baker, Paul Simon, Yousif Sheronick, and the Kronos Quartet (Pieces of Africa). He has contributed to music for the Olympic Games in 1984 and 2004.
His electrified kora can also be heard on several tracks on Herbie Hancock's 1984 electro-funk album Sound-System. The following year, Suso and Hancock came out with another album, Village Life, that consists entirely of duets between them, Hancock on synthesizer and Suso on kora, talking drums, and vocals.