Sampa The Great

Healing, Power, Community

The Return is about going home, about a journey as much as it is about the place. Always in her own words, Sampa Tembo aka Sampa The Great  talks about how the individual, even as a part of a larger diaspora, can have so much power to give this narrative voice. Immigration is a tremendous burden at the same time that it is a severance from one's roots, but there's a way to make a community where one arrives; a community of expression, as Whosane lays out on the tracks outro,

"Music is my way of expressing my return, my self, my beginnings." 

And Sampa the Great is not only a storyteller who speaks to the traveler as a traveler herself, but also a facilitator for others to find their voice. Born in Zambia and raised there and in Botswana, Sampa studied in San Francisco and Los Angeles before moving to Sydney, Australia where she is based. Though she is well-traveled, Sampa remains humble and true to the communities that raised her, citing their influence as a huge reason for her success. And in turn she has dedicated herself, through her art, to giving back to those communities.

For Sampa and her fellow artists, one's beginnings are what one must always go back to in order to feel grounded and to be able to produce art that is powerful and authentic. Sometimes this can be a return to the place you are from, a trip home acting as a wellspring of ideas and images, creating combinations that are at once beautiful and exciting. But Sampa also makes it clear through the short film that documents the making of The Return, that it is equally about a return to who you are, your authentic self.

By doing what is true to you, you create a possibility for the empowerment of others like you, make it possible for them to find a way to feel at home where they are. At home in their identities.

Sampa's identity, both in her work but also in her style, is so flawlessly orchestrated and maintained that it would be impossible to mistake it as being plagiarized or part of a trend. In part, this owes to the meticulous vision that Sampa has, a dedication to actualizing what it is that she sees. But Sampa herself would tell you that her brand is less about her than the people she surrounds herself with. By creating a community around her music, a community of artists, stylists, singers and filmmakers, Sampa maintains the clarity of her vision. That is why her work feels unified and clean and why it speaks to many, because it is born from the work of a collective of thought and feeling, rather than from just her own direction. It takes a village.
Statement by Omar El-Sabrout

Thumbnail photo by  Barun Chatterjee

Credits Courtesy of Ninja Tune:

Directed by: Sanjay De Silva
Produced by: Sanjay De Silva, Carl Pires, Miranda Anzarut
Executive Producers: Kate Armstrong-Smith, (The Working Group), Sampa The Great PTY LTD
Cinematographer: Barun Chatterjee
Edited by: Leila Gaabi
Post House: The Editors
Colourist: Fergus Rotherham

Sound Recordist: Carl Pires, Sanjay De Silva
Sound Designer: Niels Gabriels
B camera operators: Sanjay De Silva, Carl Pires
Additional Footage: Syrene Pavero

Stills Photographer: Barun Chatterjee, Carl Pires
Graphics Designer: Priit Siimon, Jodia Natapradja 
Mixer: Joshua Negete Moyo 

1st AC: Terrance Chuma
Driver: Transky Ndhlovu
Stylist: Ntombi Moyo
Script Supervisor: Joe Couch
Kulamba Ceremony Representatives: Capt. Shanl Alex, Kamchose Banda
Kulamba Ceremony Performers: Kasinja, Kang’wi-ng’wi, Maria, Nyata, Makanja