PhD student combines passion for music with technology and sociology

By: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu,  A&S Communications
Mon, 02/04/2019

Doctoral student Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo ‘08, MA ‘15, started producing music in high school using the stage name DJ Eno. Growing up in Ithaca to an Ivorian and Congolese mother and father who teach at Cornell and Wells College respectively, she stayed in Ithaca to do her undergraduate studies at Cornell. Shedding her former stage name, Lumumba-Kasongo chose the name Sammus, the name of the main character of the Metroid video games.

“I chose the name Sammus because the character Samus (one M) from the Metroid video game franchise represents so much of what is important to me as an artist and as a person,”  Lumumba-Kasongo said. “In the game, the identity of the protagonist (Samus) is hidden; it is unclear who Samus is until the end of the game. At the end of the game, Samus is revealed to be a woman. As a child playing this game in the early 90s when there were few playable female characters, I was really excited about this revelation.”

Lumumba-Kasongo is featured in a recent episode of "Fresh from the Hill: Inside Stories of Noteworthy Cornellians."

As a freshman, Lumumba-Kasongo wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. When she took a science and technology studies class, ‘What is Science?” cross-listed with sociology, she learned about some of the ways in which science and technology are socially constructed. She also learned about the history of the Moog synthesizer, an important musical innovation.

“I was in Arts & Sciences so I had the freedom to take courses in everything from Asian studies to physics, she said. “I’ve always been interested both by the social relations that structure and are structured by our personal interactions as well as how societies work more broadly.”

The introduction of music into the curriculum only intrigued her more.“I was not formally trained, so I did not think I could ever study music in an academic context, but learning about the Moog synthesizer in a science and technology studies class made me realize that there was a way one could study music or sound without being in a formal music department.”

She ended up double majoring in science and technology studies and sociology. She returned to Cornell in 2011 for her master’s in science and technology studies and is currently pursuing a PhD in that same field.

While working as an assistant residence hall director at Just About Music, Lumumba-Kasongo planned small and large-scale music events and helped students to manage a studio and performance space.

“Through that process I really began to learn how booking and running a live show works,” she said. “I was responsible for finding talent, negotiating with artists and figuring out the appropriate tech needs for their shows to run smoothly. I ended up incorporating many of the practices I learned at JAM into my own approaches for booking shows and negotiating deals outside of Cornell.”

Lumumba-Kasongo met her manager, Kelechi Aharanwa, who was also a student, at a musical event organized by various Cornell student organizations. She released her debut EP “Fly Nerd” in 2010. Within a few hours of its release in 2013, her second album, “Prime,” became the bestselling rap album on Bandcamp. Lumumba-Kasongo toured the U.S with rapper Mega Ran on the “Rappers with Arm Cannons” tour in 2015.

Lumumba-Kasongo is working on completing her dissertation, creating her next album and planning her marriage later this year to Olanrewaju Akinsiku, a recent graduate of Cornell’s Creative Writing MFA program.

Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo ‘08, MA ‘15