|Born||Kelefa T. Sanneh
1975 (age 40–41)
Birmingham, West Midlands, England
|Occupation||Journalist, music critic|
Kelefa T. Sanneh (born 1975) is an English-American journalist and music critic. From 2000 to 2008, he wrote for the New York Times, covering the rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, and pop music scenes. He now writes about culture for The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 2008.
Sanneh was born in Birmingham, West Midlands, England, and spent his early years in Ghana and Scotland, before his family moved to Massachusetts in 1981, then to Connecticut in 1989. His father, Lamin Sanneh, was born in Janjanbureh, Gambia, and is now D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity and professor of history at Yale Divinity School. Kelefa's mother, Sandra, is a white South African linguist who teaches the isiZulu language at Yale.
Sanneh graduated from Harvard University in 1997 with a degree in literature. While at Harvard he worked for Transition Magazine and served as rock director for WHRB's Record Hospital. Sanneh played bass in the Harvard bands Hypertrophie Shitstraw, MOPAR, Fear of Reprisal and TacTic, as well as a Devo cover band that included members of Fat Day, Gerty Farish, Bishop Allen and Lavender Diamond. Sanneh's thesis paper, The Black Galactic: Toward A Greater African America, combined interests in music, literature and culture in writing about The Nation of Islam and the Sun Ra Arkestra as efforts to transcend oppression in the African-American experience with desires to travel into outer space.
Sanneh garnered considerable publicity for an article he wrote in the October 31, 2004, issue of The New York Times titled "The Rap against Rockism". The article brought to light to the general public a debate among American and British music critics about rockism, a term Sanneh defined inductively to mean "idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher." In the essay, Sanneh further asks music listeners to "stop pretending that serious rock songs will last forever, as if anything could, and that shiny pop songs are inherently disposable, as if that were necessarily a bad thing. Van Morrison's 'Into the Music' was released the same year as the Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight'; which do you hear more often?"
Before covering music for the Times, he was the deputy editor of Transition, a journal of race and culture, based at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, at Harvard University. His writing has also appeared in The Source; Rolling Stone; Blender; The Village Voice; Man’s World (“India’s classiest men’s magazine”); Da Capo Best Music Writing in 2002, 2005, and 2007; and newspapers around the world.
Sanneh wrote the high-profile "Project Trinity," which appeared in The New Yorker's April 7, 2008, edition, to give context to the controversial comments of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who was Barack Obama's pastor. The article provides a historical context of the Trinity United Church of Christ, Obama's church, and to Wright, the former pastor of Trinity.
- Sanneh, Kelefa (November 24, 2008). "Science projects". The Critics. On Television. The New Yorker. 84 (38): 122–123. Reviews "Fringe" and "The Mentalist".
- — (November 7, 2011). "Cain's ghosts". The Talk of the Town. Campaign Diary. The New Yorker. 87 (35): 24–26.
- — (November 19, 2012). "Badass American". Profiles. The New Yorker. 88 (36): 34–45. Kid Rock.
- — (November 26, 2012). "The Hell-Raiser". Profiles. The New Yorker. 88 (37): 56–65. Evangelical pastor Rob Bell.
- — (February 11–18, 2013). "Spirit Guide". Letter from Islay. The New Yorker. 89 (1): 51–61. Reinventing the Bruichladdich Distillery.
- — (May 13, 2013). "Paint bombs : David Graeber's "The Democracy Project" and the anarchist revival". The Critics. A Critic at Large. The New Yorker. 89 (13): 72–76.
- — (March 24, 2014). "Skin in the game : Under Armour knows athletes. Can it sell to everyone else?". Annals of Fashion. The New Yorker. 90 (5): 48–55.
- — (July 28, 2014). "Mean Girl". Profiles. The New Yorker. 90 (21): 54–63. Ronda Rousey, boxer
- — (October 20, 2014). "Breaking bread". The Talk of the Town. The Ropes. The New Yorker. 90 (32): 30, 32.
- — (February 9, 2015). "Don't Be Like That, Does black culture need to be reformed?". Books. The New Yorker. 91 (6): 62–68.
- — (September 14, 2015). "Body Count". A Critic at Large. The New Yorker.
- — (April 25, 2016). "Godmother of Soul". Profiles. The New Yorker.
- — (May 9, 2016). "Cool Papa". Profiles. The New Yorker.
- — (February 29, 2016). "Chill in the air : the rise of Kygo's laid-back house music". The Critics. Pop Music. The New Yorker. 92 (3): 76–77.
- Kelefa Sanneh | Articles, The New York Times.
- "Contributors | Kalefa Sanneh", The New Yorker.
- "Contributors: Kelefa Sanneh". The New Yorker. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
- Bonk, Jonathan J. (October 1, 2003). "The Defender of the Good News: Questioning Lamin Sanneh". Christianity Today.
- Micner, Tamara (October 6, 2006). "Zulu program clicks with small group of students". The Yale Herald. Archived from the original on November 29, 2006.
- "Welcome from the Director of Studies". Harvard University Department of Comparative Literature. Archived from the original on April 11, 2011.
- "Incipient Roadkill". The Harvard Crimson. March 24, 1994.
- "Lit Alumni". Department of Comparative Literature. Harvard University. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Sanneh, Kelefa. The Black Galactic: Towards a Greater African America. Harvard University. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Sanneh, Kelefa (October 31, 2004). "The Rap Against Rockism". The New York Times.[non-primary source needed]
- James Houston, "Rockism of Ages", First Call, Vol. V, No. 7, November 15, 2004.
- Koblin, John (March 4, 2008). "Kelefa Sanneh, Ariel Levy Join New Yorker". New York Observer. Retrieved April 11, 2011.
- Column archive at The New York Times
- Kelefa Sanneh on Charlie Rose
- Kelefa Sanneh at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Kelefa Sanneh in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Sanneh, Kelefa (24 November 2008). "On Television: Science Projects". The New Yorker. 84 (38): 122–123. Retrieved 16 April 2009. Reviews "Fringe" and "The Mentalist".