9 Dec 2023

SAMPHA- ‘I had a very nutritious musical upbringing’

From Music 101, 1:10 pm on 9 December 2023

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Sampha Sisay, A.K.A SAMPHA is a British singer, producer, musician and songwriter known for his smooth and rich voice. He first burst onto the music scene working with electronic music producer SBTRKT. Soon his unique flair for production and vocal depth captured audiences globally. 

He has worked with a broad array of artists from Solange, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean. In 2017, critical acclaim followed when he received the prestigious Mercury Prize for Album of the Year. Cementing his position as an artist with his debut solo album Process. 

Family is front and centre in his follow-up album Lahai. The musical background of the record steeped in West African folk music got SAMPHA thinking about his own,  “Lahai is my middle name, whilst I was making the record. Lineage and ancestry were on my mind”. 


Photo: Jesse Crankston

Spirit 2.0- was him trying to re-interpret some of that music in an electronic style. He purchased a new OB-6 synth and modular synthesizers and began exploring new music production techniques. 

Jungle was a kind of nostalgic haze for SAMPHA who grew up with four older brothers immersed in the UK rave scene in the mid 90’s. A sound he reinterpreted using a robotic drummer to create the breakbeats in songs like Spirit 2.0 in his new album. “My brothers were the pioneers, I had a very nutritious musical upbringing, in terms of the music I was introduced to and the music I was surrounded by”.

What happens when a song so personal to you becomes adopted by fans worldwide? In 2017, SAMPHA'S  song No One Knows Me (Like the Piano) from his first album Process went on to become a reference point for grieving fans. SAMPHA says he is still thankful that the song, a powerful tribute to his late mother Binty Sisay continues to live on.

“One of the joys of music is that you can express something that doesn't make people feel so alone. It’s beautiful that a lot of people are speaking about their situations and what that song means to them”.  

SAMPHA describes parenting during that time as grounding and challenging amidst the global pandemic.  The song, Evidence is an ode to his daughter who was born during the pandemic.“My existential worries shifted thinking about my own life”.

British producer and singer Sampha. Who will play at Splore and The Power Station in  Auckland Feb 2024

Photo: Jesse Crankston

SAMPHA will be playing in Aotearoa, at the Power Station on Friday, February 23, and Saturday at Splore festival on Feb 24 with his full live band.