The Spiritual Significance of Tribal Influence in Sampa The Great’s "Final Form" Video
In the opening scenes of the video for Sampa The Great’s song “Final Form,” you see Sampa confidently strutting, back turned towards the camera, beaded cornrows swinging. As the brass section and kick-drum beat powersp through in the background, the camera captures short moments of masked dancers, a bustling street complete with market stalls and people posing in their finest traditional attire. The black power anthem combined with stunning visuals is a love letter to herself and to the beautiful culture that birthed her.
Sampa purposefully sets the stage for this music video in her native land of Zambia—a country in East Africa. Although she was raised in Botswana and is currently based in Sydney, Australia, it’s clear that the rapper is not one to forget where she comes from. The rapper uses her homecoming to Zambia as a backdrop to express her sentiments of returning to her roots, spiritually and physically. “The video was inspired by the belief of having a spiritual exodus to yourself,” Sampa says according to Bandcamp. “We often as Black people in the diaspora talk about the physical return to our roots, but not so often about the spiritual.”
The tribal influences in this video are endless, from Nyau dancers in feathered masks, tied together with modern day Zambian culture and style. According to Zambia Daily Mail, Nyau dancers (seen mostly in Chewa culture) are not seen as humans when performing, but spiritual beings of the ancestors. They portray a wide array of characters and creatures including animals and humans. In addition to dancing, some performers do dangerous stunts and tricks to shock the crowd.
The traditional influences within the costume design are heavily intertwined with staples in the world of today’s fashion. Sampa’s dancers are dressed in modern clothing with traditional touches: a suit and sneakers with a kufi/kofia (a brimless round hat), a t-shirt and shorts combined with beaded necklaces and bracelets. Sampa, herself, is seen wearing several variations of modern and traditional wear—my favorite being the red fur vest and red dress along with cowrie-adorned large braids.
Sampa unapologetically embraces and celebrates who she is, realizing that without a nod to her heritage, she can never reach her “final form” creatively. “It was important for me to do this video in Zambia, the place of my birth and where I’m from, because if I am truly to become the greatest version of myself, I am going to start at the most me I’ve ever been, which is where I started from, where I grew up...to erase that by calling me anything but Zambian/African, is to erase my history, culture and essence. Everything I was born from.”
What do you think of “Final Form” and it’s design influence? What about the song itself, is it a bop? Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments.