Sampha followers have long-awaited the arrival of his debut album Process after years of subdued attention in the underground music scene. Upon its release in February of this year, Sampha delivered an album worthy of its wait in time, surpassing fans expectations with its faultless vocals and towering sincerity. To complement his debut of the same title, Sampha has now released a 37-minute short film directed by Kahlil Joseph, most notably known as the astute brain behind Beyonce’s astounding visual album Lemonade. Through Joseph’s mastery of film and Sampha’s unadulterated honesty, the film serves as a tribute to Sampha’s late mother, as well as a magnification of Sampha’s passion for his craft.
Filmed back in January 2017, Process is a deeply personal film which navigates between Sampha’s parent’s hometown of Freetown, Sierra Leone and Sampha’s childhood neighbourhood of Morden in London’s south. What initially begins as an incoherent, confusing series of shots of a house in Sierra Leone, Sampha performing in restricted London alleyways, bodies sprawled out randomly on bare concrete, and extended glimpses of inanimate objects in a London apartment, the film gradually gains traction, as the meaning behind these settings become realised. This is aided by momentary interviews of Sampha’s relatives, where we later learn that ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’ was actually the song that Sampha performed at his mother’s funeral.
A central focus of the film – and album artwork – appears to be on the theme of symmetry, with shots such as the backdrop for the final credits depicting a shallow pool of water on concrete splendidly mirroring its surroundings making this perfectly evident. The dual setting of Sierra Leone and London also support this notion, with a scene of Sampha walking down a London alleyway juxtaposed with one where his Sierra Leone relative is walking in a Freetown street laying claim to the premise.
This theme appears to symbolise Sampha’s search for emotional balance in the wake of his mother’s passing. As the film nears conclusion and we are witness to a powerful live performance of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’, it becomes clear that the houses in which the film has been set are in fact Sampha’s previous homes, with pensive stills of inanimate objects around these houses used to personalise their significance. As the song ends, a rolling panoramic view over the Sierra Leone coast acts as a figurative spreading of his mother’s ashes at sea through film.
Soundtracked by trimmed arrangements of ‘Timmy’s Prayer’, ‘Blood On Me’ and more, Process is a film that is a time-shifting, illusionary and a sometimes confusing sequence of fast montages and slow-panning panoramic shots. However this confusion is clearly intentional, and used to illustrate Sampha’s apparent emotional turbulence in the wake of his late mother’s passing. The film acts as less of a coping mechanism to deal with the loss of his mother, but more so an ode to her life and to his heritage as a whole. It is in light of this that the album’s title gains considerable meaning: perhaps Sampha’s path to emotional balance is one filled with pain but littered with strange beauty, a patient one, a process.
Watch a preview of Process here or below and the full film via Apple Music or the iTunes store.