sousou cissoko

Our music belongs to the world.
Our songs travel with us.
They do not have a home or original country.
Their home is with us and within us.
When our music is with us it is home, no matter where we are.

Throughout her life, Sousou has been surrounded by music of all kinds. With a musician father and two musical brothers Sousou Cissoko (née Hagberth Gottlow) grew up in a home where music had an obvious place. Their house had a music room full of instruments to try out and there was always someone close by to explain how to play them.

Sousou has always been singing and has a passion for instruments. She started playing the violin at the age of four, followed by the piano, guitar and recorder a few years later. When she was ten years old her father began collaborate with the Gambian kora player Alagi Mbye who regularly came to visit the family in Höör in southern Sweden. Alagi told stories from the old Mandinka empire and brought with him a fascinating new instrument – the kora.

Sousou started to play with his peculiar instrument, but the kora was like no instrument she had ever tried before. For once, there was no-one in the family who could show her what to do! Driven by the instrument’s beautiful sound, Sousou travelled to The Gambia to study the kora with Alagi Mbye.

It was also a personal journey where I really had to think what I wanted, where I was going and where I am coming from. I realized that I must follow my heart and that the road is the goal.

Traditionally, only men from jali families may play the kora, but it was Alagi Mbye’s ambition to encourage others to play the instrument. Sousou travelled to The Gambia several times to take intensive lessons. Between and after those stays Sousou performed solo concerts with the kora and also studied Swedish folk singing and baroque music.

In The Gambia, I was often asked why I was there to study their culture and traditions. Some wondered if I did not have “any traditions of my own”. That encouraged me to learn more about Swedish folk music as well.

Together with Maher, Sousou has further developed her kora playing and resumed her interest in playing the guitar.

With Sousou’s outstanding voice, singing also forms a bright red thread through her musical journey.