Foday Musa Suso
Born to a family of griots, or musical storytellers, Foday Musa Suso is a singer and player of the kora -- a 21-string lute. He's an originator of the World Fusion category, playing a blend of styles that are half West African Mandingo folk music, and half synthesized-groove. Suso played on the seminal Electro-Funk recording "Rockit" with Herbie Hancock. He came to the U.S. teaching jazz musicians such as Don Cherry and Hancock about his African roots, and collaborated with producer Bill Laswell on a series of happy, upbeat albums that feature choruses of sweet harmonies backing up extended, percussive kora solos. Work with composer Philip Glass on the film Powaqahsi has furthered his sound, but it's his electrified African extensions of James Brown that make him such a vital, pioneering figure.