Sefo Kanuteh is a virtuosic, soulful and authentic Kora and Balafon player from The Gambia. Having worked closely on major projects with artists such as Baba Maal and The BKO Quintet, his drive to recreate the warmth of his home community in the UK is shown through his inspiring audience engagement during performances, as well as his various workshops throughout Europe, teaching the importance of Gambian culture.
Sefo grew up in Foday Kunda on the banks of the River Gambia and was raised by a family of highly skilled kora and balafon players; his musical education was a way of life. This strong passion for music has been passed down for generations in Sefo’s family and his community - music was not just at the heart of his people, but it defined them.
Sefo’s musical inspirations are rooted firmly in his family line, with his father, uncle and grandfather paving the way for him; in the Mandinka culture, everyone has their own ancestral instrument specific to their family. Sefo’s father passed away when he was only 2 years old, so his uncle decided to teach him to play his own family instrument - the Balafon (similar to a Xylophone). Later on, Sefo also taught himself how to play his father’s instrument - the Kora (a long-necked harp lute). Playing these instruments gave Sefo the chance to travel throughout the country & beyond to help, heal and inspire communities through music.
Sefo makes all of his instruments himself and travels around the world to introduce his culture. Now, more than ever, he feels it is important to learn how to come together, support each other and to slow down, rather than retreating and letting fear define our actions. He often stresses that “Our lives are so stressful and fast paced, and often so isolated that we don’t even know our own neighbours!”
When not performing or writing, Sefo also works as a mental health worker, with a passion for helping people through tough times and supporting the lonely. This is a driving force behind the inclusivity and peace that his performances bring.
With his live performances resembling mass family gatherings where everyone can express themselves freely, he describes them as “like having a big party with both old and new friends”. His favourite aspect of performing is being able to share his culture with new audiences, inspiring them to adopt a more joyous way of life through music.
Sefo’s music has been described as mesmerising and magical. His compositions are a melodic mixture of highly-valued traditional pieces interwoven with styles from every continent, planting Sefo as a contemporary Mande musician. Sefo’s music sings of his life, family and freedom. Certain of his cultural roots, Sefo’s kora and balafon blends beautifully with other genres including Latin, reggae, jazz, blues and pop. His playing can also provide an exquisite solo focus offering an original and artistic dimension to other collaborations.