“After Hancock’s collaboration with Foday Musa Suso on Sound-System, the two musicians quickly agreed to do a duet album together, something Hancock had never done before. The duo travelled to Tokyo in August 1984 to record the music at CBS/Sony studios. Village Life is often overlooked, as it defies categorization and preconceived idioms, yet it documents a fascinating meeting between two musicians who, despite being rooted in different cultures and traditions, share a common musical and spiritual understanding. Suso can be heard on the kora (a West African stringed instrument) and talking drum, while Hancock plays a Yamaha DX-1 synthesizer and a drum machine on this session, which was recorded live. The outcome is a gorgeous album with four tranquil and contemplative meditations, in which Hancock contrasts and interweaves his harmonic ideas with the delicate sounds of Suso’s kora.” – 2013 Sony Box Set Liner Notes
Original Album Liner Notes:
When Herbie Hancock was approached by the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee to compose a piece of music for the Field Events at the 1984 Olympic Games, he says he knew right away what it should sound like. “I wanted something heroic, courageous, and challenging. Something that would illustrate the “Roots of Man,” and be very American at the same time. About the same time, my producer introduced me to Foday Musa Suso, who comes from West Africa and plays an instrument called the kora.” They formed an instant attachment; an artistic match that created the song “Junku”, included on Hancock’s recent Sound-System LP.
In The Gambia, where Suso makes his home, the kora is the chief accompaniment for the griots, those keepers of tribal tradition who embody the living history of their people. Suso is a direct descendant of the first griot and had, by the age of eighteen, already mastered the incredible complexities of the giant, 21-stringed kora. All at once he plays rhythm, harmony and melody, much as an Indian sitarist does.
Suso joined Hancock for his 1984 international tour, and at its conclusion, in Tokyo, they entered the studios for two days of intense and virtuosic duets. “I was initially going to play acoustic piano, accompanying Suso on Gambian folk things. But a couple of days before the sessions, I was taken on a tour of the Yamaha factory, and that’s when I saw the DX-1 synthesizer.” Hancock’s eyes crinkle with joy as he admits, “I just had to have it right away. That’s all play on the album. There are no overdubs at all. I loved the chance to explore the direction I was being pointed at in Future Shock, using sound – noise, even – as dynamic elements in the music. Traditional African instruments are not tuned like a piano. The DX-1 allows for de-tuning, to more closely match the intonation of Suso’s kora.”
The resulting album is at once majestic and meditative, unique and universal, a blending of musics as wide afield as Eastern, Indonesian and Greek.
Its echoes and resonances are so dense and rich, that they yield new rewards each time it’s played. Hancock states the simple truth of his and Suso’s achievement: “This music doesn’t sound like anything else I’ve heard.” – Roger Steffens, KCRW-FM, Santa Monica, CA
Thanks to: Toshinori Kondo, Roger Trilling, CBS/Sony Records Staff, Namahiko Sasaki, Tai Onishi, Jack Matsumura, Yamaha Musical Instruments Japan, and Ornette Coleman
Cover-Art: “Village Life Under The Cocoa Trees’ by Prince Twin-Seven Seven.
Design: Tony Lane/ Nancy Donald.
Back Cover Photography: Geoffrey Thomas.
Produced by Bill Laswell and Herbie Hancock.
Recorded August 7-9, 1984 by Tomoo Suzuki and Dave Jerden at CBS/Sony Studios, Shinanomachi, Tokyo.
Originally released April 1985 as Columbia LP FC-39870 and Columbia CD CK 39870
Yamaha DX-1 Digital – This polyphonic digital synthesizer was the equivalent of two DX-7s put together and was the biggest and most expensive synthesizer in the DX line. Herbie played this instrument on Foday Musa Suso: Village Life.
Yamaha RX11 Digital Drum Machine – Released in the early 1980s, this programmable drum machine featured 29 real drum samples and 12 audio outputs. Herbie played this instrument on Village Life.
- 1. Moon/Light 7:59
- 2. Ndan Ndan Nyaria 9:52
- 3. Early Warning 2:53
- 4. Kanatente 20:00
- Herbie Hancock (Producer)
- Herbie Hancock (Composer, Yamaha DX-1 Digital)
- Herbie Hancock (Yamaha RX11 Digital Drum Machine)
- Foday Musa Suso (Kora, Talking Drum)
- Bill Laswell (Producer)