More about: Sampa The Great
“I’d never fully claimed myself to be Zambian,” says Sampa The Great, an artist whose work has always focussed on identity, womanhood and growth. As Above, So Below follows these themes which are so present in musician Sampa Tembo’s life. Born in Zambia but Australia-raised, Tembo relocated to her birthplace over lockdown in order to better understand what it meant to be a ‘Zambian artist’ — and to collaborate with local artists crossing both genre and era.
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Sampa The Great is a musician who is reliable when it comes to good music. All of her previous albums have been consistent in their quality and As Above, So Below maintains this high bar of well-produced precision. While this is something to be proud of, it doesn’t ever really feel like her albums can be set apart from one another. That said, the one thing that does set this album apart from 2019’s The Return is its more in-depth blend of contemporary hip-hop and traditional Zambian music.
'Never Forget' is forged from '70s zamrock music and features local artists MC Chef 187, Tio Nason and Mwanié. This song is testament to the time Tembo has spent in her birthplace and acts as an homage to her recent hero/mentor, Jagari Chanda, of the Zambian psych rock group W.I.T.C.H (We Intend To Cause Havoc).
This ability of merging different forms is also present on album highlight 'Lane'. This is a song that shines bright with warmth and is elevated by Sampa’s vocal harmonies. When the music breaks into a modern trap beat and a verse by rapper Denzel Curry, he spits about being able to stand out in a world of white artists.
This celebration of Black ideas and culture is one which Sampa has always spotlighted, and one she is still always working towards. Sampa also recently collaborated on Tony Allen’s posthumous album, There Is No End and she also recently toured her An Afro Future curated show around Australia — in which she highlights Black artists both past and present.
Towards the tail end of the album, on songs 'Can I Live?' and 'Lo Rain', Sampa returns to her musical roots with some truly great modern hip-hop that occasionally veers into soul and R&B. So effortless is her ability to genre hop that it keeps the music exciting. As Above, So Below is stunning in its creation, which is no shock considering Sampa’s standards.
On the final track, 'Let Me Be Great', Sampa signs off on a note of brilliance. The song is powerful and impactful and shows that Sampa can be whoever she wants to be in order to get her message across. While she may always struggle with ideas of identity and where she fits in a predominantly white society being a Zambian artist, she will always have the talent to get her ideas across.
As Above, So Below is out now.
Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.
More about: Sampa The Great