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New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo

A story from the Brown University Department of Music written by Zoe Boggs '22

photo by Pinya Pipatjarasgit '22

Dr. Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo is a new postdoctoral fellow at Brown’s Department of Music, and she’s also a critically-acclaimed rapper and producer who goes by the name of Sammus. After learning about the fellowship position from her mentors and applying last spring, she will be at Brown for the next two years, working on her own music while teaching classes and participating in weekly Humanities Center discussions.
            
Lumumba-Kasongo – or Sammus – got her start in music from her older brother’s influence. “One summer when I was in high school, he basically showed me how to make beats on the computer, and from there it was like ‘off to the races!’” she remembers. She kept producing beats, but she never actually put lyrics to her music until after she graduated college and became an elementary school math and science teacher. Her plan was to write about the subjects she taught in order to inspire her students. “I basically wanted to make songs about how it was cool to be a nerd,” she says. “But then I showed my work to a lot of adults around me and they were like, ‘oh, this is cool, I like your perspective.’ So from there, I kept going.” 

photo by Zoloo Brown

And going and going – under the name of Sammus, she has released several EPs, albums, and video game-themed projects. She describes her work as “Black girl nerd rap” that brings together Afrofuturism, anti-racist and anti-sexist messages, and a love for technology. Her songs explore the intersection of her various identities as a Black woman and gamer; they muse about the small but important experiences of her daily life. Recently, though, she has been exploring the idea that not all her music has to have a specific meaning or message – that it’s just as valid to wrestle with concepts and not come to a definitive conclusion. “If anything, I want for my music to just create more space for other artists who think like I do,” she says.
           
The name Sammus comes from the character Samus in a classic ‘80s Nintendo game called Metroid.“In the game, the character’s in a giant armor cybernetic suit and you can't tell what they look like. But when you beat the game, the armor suit comes off and you learned that this character is a woman.” Lumumba-Kasongo had similar experiences – being unmasked as a woman – when she entered the music production world. Many of the men she encountered didn’t think that she had produced her own beats. Taking the name of Sammus was a significant statement; she is paying homage to a video game character that influenced and inspired her, while also stepping into a position that defies gender expectations and can inspire other young women. 
photo by Ginarte

Working in a music department has been a shift for Lumumba-Kasongo after spending the last several years teaching and working on her dissertation, which examines the politics of recording studios that work with underserved communities. For a long time, her music creation has been separate from her scholarship and work in academia. “It’s been really cool to know that I can kind of practice my creative work more out loud as a part of my professional development and work as an academic. That intersection is really nice.” Along with continuing to work on music – she’s hoping to have another album out this spring, so she can tour in the summer – Lumumba-Kasongo is teaching a seminar called “Rap as Storytelling” that examines the storytelling elements in a wide range of hip hop forms. 
            
Although she’ll only be at Brown’s music department for two years, Lumumba-Kasongo has a lot of plans. Apart from producing music and teaching, she wants to use her position to bring together artists from Providence with the Brown community. “I want to… bring to the institution other MCs and artists who I think are brilliant and could give great artist talks or provide demos. I really want to make that connection happen because I think the university can really benefit from having these brilliant practitioners come through and just display their skills for the students and faculty.” We’re lucky to have Dr. Lumumba-Kasongo here with us, bringing her wealth of experience and creativity to Brown’s campus. 
About the Author

Zoe Boggs is a sophomore at Brown from Memphis, TN who is studying history. She loves to write creative nonfiction pieces about music and cool people, bake pies, and walk around Downtown Providence. You can reach her at zoe_boggs@brown.edu.

Copyright © 2019 Brown University Department of Music, All rights reserved.


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