Sampha: LAHAI (Young) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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It’s been over six years since Sampha dropped Process, the Mercury Prize-winning breakout that placed the London-based singer/songwriter at the center of the British indie music scene. Process was an exploration of Sampha’s mortality, engulfed by grief and loss of his mother, and driven by a somber blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation—all earmarked by his soulful, rich voice.

The hotly anticipated follow-up, LAHAI, immediately feels like the product of the intervening years of meditation and exploration. Named for Sampha’s paternal grandfather, whose name is also Sampha’s middle name, the record is an intimate personal study of existence, time, science, family, love, and spirituality. When announcing the record, Sampha wrote: “Fever Dreams. Continuums. Dancing. Generations. Syncopation. Bridges. Grief. Motherlands. Love. Spirit. Fear. Flesh. Flight.” All of these descriptors effortlessly weave through the album’s 14 tracks, all punctuated by Sampha’s arresting voice, his own production efforts, his maestro piano efforts, and the consistently authoritative rhythm section that dabbles in house and rap breakbeats to jazz to West African.

Standout tracks are numerous, in particular the second single “Only,” which is inspired by Sampha’s readings of the cosmos but traverses deeper themes such as fate, faith, the soul, and destiny—all pinned to a hip-hop beat and Sampha’s layered harmonies. Another standout is the fervent penultimate track, “What If You Hypnotise Me?,” which features French-Martiniquan singer Léa Sen, whose hypnotic vocal delivery punctuates a deeply moving track about the failures of language to articulate feeling: a fitting theme for Sampha, who uses music to grapple with personal battles and major, existential topics.

The fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull serves as another major touchpoint on the record. “Spirit 2.0” and “Jonathan L. Seagull” both reference the 1970 novella, which tells the story of a seagull discovering his own personal freedom and self-realization. Jonathan spends his time experimenting with flight, discovering his abilities, and eventually draws criticism from his flock, who banish him as an outcast. Jonathan later meets other gulls like him and eventually becomes a teacher of flight. The tale is an allegory for Sampha’s own journey of self-discovery, of the initial limitations the world may place upon us, and how our tireless efforts to push those limitations may earn us criticism and self-doubt, but eventually, belonging, peace, and understanding.

LAHAI extends Sampha’s virtuosic career with a showcase of his limitless pool of influence, his songwriting ability, and, inevitably, his soul. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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