Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

On Lahai, Sampha explores the beauty within his world


Release date: 20 October 2023
Sampha – Lahai – Album Artwork
17 October 2023, 18:00 Written by Riley Moquin

Nearly seven years on from his Mercury Prize-winning record, Sampha has grown from grief to hope.

Last time Sampha Sisay gifted us with a full-length record, the London-based singer-songwriter produced Process, a record centered on grief, anxiety, and mourning in the aftermath of his mother’s passing. Now, the electronic chaos of his earlier work is traded for softness as he sings of higher powers, healing, and – perhaps most of all – his daughter, born during the pandemic.

The warm synths of lead single “Spirit 2.0” create a fitting backdrop for the artist as he sings of waves, light, faith, love, time, and spirit. In the context of the record, “Spirit 2.0” comes after “Stereo Colour Cloud,” which opens Lahai with a female voice proclaiming “I wish you could time / time-missile back-forward.”

Time is an ever-present motif on Lahai. On the interlude “Time Piece,” another female voice asks (in French) for a time machine ‘to go back’ in time. “Can’t Go Back” is the track that follows, interpolating the opening lines from “Stereo Colour Cloud” in its hook.

There are a handful of featured voices on Lahai; and every single one is female. It’d be foolish to then not note Lahai’s devotion to Wassoulou music, the West African genre performed almost entirely by women.

As Sampha declares his daughter ‘heaven-sent’ on “Can’t Go Back,” the singer’s words call back to his description of himself as a prisoner to heaven on 2017’s “Timmy’s Prayer.” Singing of spirits, surrounded by female voices reminding him of time, and amidst his musings on the connection between his past and his future, Lahai’s remarkable second half pulls together the record as an expressionist painting of life’s cyclical nature as Sampha reflects on his daughter’s place in his life, and her connection to her late grandmother. “You’re enough evidence for me,” the singer declares on “Evidence.”

On the penultimate track “What If You Hypnotise Me?” we get a glimpse into the anxieties and fears that still burden Sampha: “Please articulate my anguish / please explain to me why these raindrops accompany better times.” The classic Sampha drum-driven beat is broken, giving way to a steady beeping akin to a heartbeat on an ECG machine.

Finally, one more female voice enters. Maybe it’s the spirit of Sampha’s mother, with new life breathed into her, her memory living through her newborn granddaughter. Or maybe it’s Sampha’s daughter. Or maybe it’s nobody. No matter who it is, we know who Sampha is: a generational talent who has once again delivered a rich, emotional work for us to process. Lahai is phenomenal.

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