Sampa The Great

I almost don’t know where to begin with Sampa The Great last night. The tickets were bought so long ago and so much has been going on the past few weeks that I’d forgotten I had this to look forward to until Sunday night. I looked in my calendar and felt nourished in anticipation.

I first discovered Sampa when a couple of my Boomtown fam had seen her perform F E M A L E at a festival and couldn’t wait to tell me about her on their return knowing how much I would love her music. Walking into Rough Trade African material is draped across the back of the stage whilst the warm up act (no other than executive producer of The Return) Silent Jay took us on his own journey filled with fat beats and slick vocals – the perfect start to a beautiful evening.

The room went dark as we snaked to the front left and 5 beautiful humans draped in red silk jackets entered the stage – 3 vocalists, a drummer and Silent Jay behind 2 keyboards and a laptop to set up for the show. Sampa entered and the place exploded – this tiny ball of infectious energy she raced across the stage making eye contact with as many as she could and pouring positivity into the room.

Images by Sharifa Whitney James

Every lyrical delivery was sharp with her flow switching up as soon as you got used to it backed with the sound that has become synonymous with her. As she introduced each track with a little background as to where they came from she spoke about her search for freedom, doing what she loved and understanding of identity. When she asked all the black girls in the audience to make themselves known for Black Girl Magic and told us all to shout you ‘I am beautiful’ before she performed it to us, with us, and the tears came. Not through sadness but because it is rare to feel so seen in that environment.

Jumping into the crowd for Final Form we went…wild. Having told the crowd to make room for her fellow short sisters she entered them whipping everyone into the kind of Monday frenzy I don’t think I’ve ever seen. ‘In my final form in my melanin’ we shouted – to the point where my voice is a myth today but boy, it was worth it.

You know an artist is truly authentic when they take the time to talk to the stragglers who stayed til the venue was closing even though they must be knackered. Even before we descended on her packed van, Sampa thanked the audience for being there and so clearly meant it that it filled the heart. And then there she was smiling, talking to and hugging everyone in our group, agreeing to pictures and cracking jokes. If you don’t know about her yet, make sure you go, listen and catch her next time because those are the shows you’ll remember. Thank you for your brilliance Sampa xx

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