Sampa Tembo is sick of traditional love songs.

At an electrifying SummerStage performance this past Saturday, the Zambian songwriter, poet and rapper– known by her stage name as “Sampa the Great“– brought a message of pure self-love to fans at Bed-Stuy’s Herbert Von King Park.

“We were tired of the, ‘I love you, you love me’ love songs,” she said. “So we decided to do the, ‘you love you’ song.”

Bed-Stuy applauds Sampa the Great at SummerStage in Herbert Von King Park July 23. Photo: Jonathan Mora for BK Reader

More than 500 people hit the park on a balmy evening for the all-ages show, many bringing their families, dogs and picnic blankets to stake their claim out on the lawn.

Others—kids and adults alike—pressed up to the stage, singing and dancing along to Sampa Tembo’s energetic set.

Tembo and her band flew all the way from Zambia for the performance. Aside from a message of self love, she brought a message of being proud of where you’re from.

Tembo is from Zambia, but is currently based in Australia. That can get people confused, she told the crowd.

“I’m sometimes called Australian, but I’m actually Zambian,” she said, noting her mic was draped in a Zambian flag.

“During COVID, I got to go home and be with my people and do a whole project created in Zambia. It’s one of my proudest moments.”

She pointed out that her band was the first to Zambian band to play Coachella and Glastonbury. “First, but not the last!”

Her drum-heavy, soul-nourishing set also included the songs Black Girl Magik—a song written to her sister struggling with the Black beauty standard—Leading Us Home, and a raspy, Sampa the Great version of Fu-Gee-La by the Fugees that got the crowd moving.

The show was opened by Alabama rapper Pink Siifu and a DJ set from AQ.

After a soupy Saturday that topped 90 degrees, the artists began just as the sun was low enough to provide some shade, and a cool breeze brought welcome relief to Brooklyn dogs spread belly-down on the lawn.

Pink Siifu—real name Livingston Matthews—a prolific rapper, singer and producer, hit the stage accompanied by a DJ, four-piece band, and three backup singers shimmering in silver net bodysuits.

Siifu himself was looking sharp from top to toe in alligator loafers, purple knee-high socks, shorts, a cropped tee and voluminous pink knit hat.

“It’s a dream come true playing in Brooklyn, in the park,” Pink Siifu told the crowd. “Now let’s shake some ass.”

Matthews flew into the city from Baltimore for the show, and played a number of songs from his 2021 album Gumbo’!. “Y’all like Gumbo?!” he asked the crowd which shot back and enthusiastic, “Yes!!”

The SummerStage event brought together a diverse, warm Bed-Stuy crowd of locals and others who traveled for the show, with t-shirts bearing slogans like, “Afro-Futuristical,” “Seeds of Revolution” and “A Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants.”

Brian Hope. Photo: Jonathan Mora for BK Reader.

Brian Hope—who lives across the road, and has called Brooklyn home for 20 years—picked up a flier for the show the day before, when he was working out in the park.

He stayed from the beginning to the end. “This is awesome,” he said.

Brandon Otis, a community gardener who also lives nearby, said he was watering his plants at The Feeding Tree garden before he headed to the show with Anthony Payne, saying “anything free” in New York is a great thing.

Anthony Payne and Brandon Otis. Photo: Jonathan Mora for BK Reader.

Meanwhile Steven Aarons hit the park for the free event before going out.

He said the music great, and he felt event fostered a “really good sense of community.”

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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  1. Thanks so much team BK reader..lam glad you covered one of our own “Sampa the Great”without descrimination.
    Love you team,and Thumbs up to Sampa for being proud to be one of us “Zambian”

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