Live Review: Sampa The Great

The Regent Theatre  Los Angeles, CA

Contact: Sara Yazdani, [email protected]

Web: sampathegreat.com

Players: Sampa The Great, vocals; Mwanje, backing vocals; Charity Shaw, backing vocals; Laz Zulu, keyboard; Sammy Masta, guitar; Kasonde Sunkutu, drums

Material: Sharing selections from her latest album As Above, So Below, along with a handful of tracks from 2019’s The Return, Sampa The Great played to a jubilant room in downtown Los Angeles’ Regent Theatre. Performing for over an hour, Sampa’s set moved between light drumming to full-on dancehall sway and touched on hip-hop, neo-soul, zamrock, amapiano and South African rap stylings. From psychedelic lights, guttural rap flow, and intense vibes in the show opener and fabulous rhythmic pulse and drumming of “Bona,” to the empowering anthems shared throughout the set, Sampa and her band delivered a vibrant energy that engaged the room.

Musicianship: The band was very tight, with a syncopated afrobeat sound and great flow (especially on “IDGAF” and “Never Forget”), and “Lane” brought heavy theatrics and some surprise rapping from the drummer. “Never Forget” brought more intense, guttural, low-range vocals, tribal drumming and strong backing vocals, with an overall cinematic sound. “Lo Rain” shifted to a ballad between Sampa, guitarist Sammy Masta, and backing vocalists Mwanje and Charity Shaw. Mwanje provided unbelievable surprise vocal prowess and the crowd clapped along enthusiastically.

Performance: “Black Girl Magik” brought a great harmonized flow and empowering message, with a solid R&B underpinning, and 2019’s “Freedom” continued with a heavy R&B feeling intro, and tasty vocal harmony pauses. “Mwana” was very danceable and “Tilibobo” brought more of an African sway, with the crowd singing along intensely. As the first Zambian artist to play Coachella, Glastonbury, the Sydney Opera House, and recently performing on Jimmy Kimmel with Angélique Kidjo, momentum has been building for some time. Attendees were very invested.

Summary: With heavy rhythmic sound and lots of body movement and use of the stage, Sampa The Great encourages (and inspires) her audience to move to the beat, clap and sing along, and she emits a confident energy that fuels her audience with powerful, engaging messages of strength and resilience. She and her band deliver strong, danceable anthems conveyed in a moody and atmospheric, African-flavored sound. A deliciously unique and heavily kinesthetic listening experience. – Andrea Beenham