The West African Griot

 

In West Africa, Griots are artisans responsible for keeping the time-honored traditions of the past alive through music and storytelling, creating narratives that may be passed down orally to future generations. Often accompanying themselves on the kora (or the less-popular balafon, a xylophone, or koni, a 4-5-stringed lute), the Griots spin songs praising friends, recalling epic battles, and relating important local historical moments.

 

A hybrid type of instrument sometimes called a “harp-lute” (because it combines the neck and body of a lute with the playing technique of a harp), the kora is made by stretching animal skin across a large calabash gourd resonator, with 21 to 23 nylon strings divided into two parallel rows and attached at varying lengths to a long, round neck mounted perpendicular to the sound table. The kora is believed to date back to the 13th century, but really came into its own on the international music scene in the 20th century.

 

 

In many ways, the Griot tradition can be seen as the most ancient roots of rap music. While the beautiful sounds of the kora and the buoyant vocal melodies of the griots may seem to have little in common with modern day hip-hop, the lyrical lineage connecting the two is undeniable.

 

To quote Mali-based musician Baba Salah, “The Griots are the guardians of history. In our culture, everything is oral. There isn’t a written language. A majority of the people here can’t read. So it’s the Griot who transmits the history from father to son, mother to daughter. That’s why in Africa we say, ‘When an old person dies, it’s like a library has burned down.’”

 

Thanks to modern adaptations such as tuning pegs and contact pick-ups for electric amplification, artists like Toumani Diabate, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, and Foday Musa Suso have successfully introduced the kora to Western audiences, hopefully ensuring that the West African Griot legacy will continue to evolve and thrive for centuries to come.  –Bret Love

 

If you enjoyed reading our story about the tradition of the West African Griot, you might also like:

GLOBAL CULTURE: Ayub Ogada (Kenya)

GLOBAL CULTURE: Rock’s African Roots

INTERVIEW: Seun Kuti

INTERVIEW: Baaba Maal

INTERVIEW: Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars

9 Responses to GLOBAL CULTURE: The West African Griot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

Co-Founded by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, Green Global Travel is an ecotourism, nature / wildlife conservation & cultural preservation magazine. More about us.

Help Support Green Global Travel!

Each time you make a purchase on Amazon.com using the link below,we'll earn a small percentage, at no extra cost to you.


Amazon

www.amazon.com

Thanks for your support! - Bret & Mary

Follow Us

Check out our other sites! Green Travel Media
Green Travel Reviews
Proud members of: The International Ecotourism Society

As Seen In:

Destinations We’ve Covered:

• AFRICA
Egypt- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Morocco- A Journey into the Atlas Mountains
South Africa- Londolozi Game Reserve Safari
South Africa- Kruger National Park
South Africa- South Africa- Zulu Memories
Tanzania- Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

 
• ANTARCTICA
How To Get To Antarctica w/out Doing the Drake
The Haunting Beauty of Icebergs
Penguins of Antarctica
Taking the Polar Plunge
Top 5 Eco Attractions in Antarctica
Whales of Antarctica
 
• ASIA
India- Ranthambhore National Park
Laos- The Pastoral Paradise of Muang Ngoi
Malaysia- Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Malaysia- Orangutan Conservation at Sepilok
Nepal- Hiking The Annapurna Circuit
Taiwan- Top 5 Eco Activities in Taipei
Thailand- Top 5 National Parks
 
• AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA
Australia- Top 5 Eco Attractions
Australia-Kangaroo Island
New Zealand- Kapiti Island
New Zealand- Tongariro National Park
New Zealand- Top 5 Ecotourism Attractions
Tahiti- First Impressions
Tahiti- Photo Gallery
Tahiti- Moorea 4x4 Safari Tour
Tahiti- Moorea, Tiki Village Theater
Tahiti- Pearl Diving in Bora Bora
Tahiti- Ruahatu Marine Sanctuary, Bora Bora
Tahiti- Swimming With Sharks in Bora Bora
Tonga- Eua Island Eco Activities

 

• NORTH AMERICA
CANADA
Churchill- Into the Wild of Manitoba
Churchill- Polar Bear Fight
Churchill- Polar Bear Photo Gallery
Churchill- Tundra Wildlife

UNITED STATES
America’s Best Volcanoes
AK- Denali National Park
CA- Hiking The John Muir Trail
FL- Sanibel Island Eco Activities
FL- Crystal River, Swimming with Manatees
GA- Barnsley Gardens
GA- Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
GA- Best Christmas Light Displays
GA- Top 20 Atlanta Christmas Events
GA- Jekyll Island Eco Activities
GA- Weekend in North GA Mountains
GA- Top 5 Eco Attractions in North GA
HI- Hawaii’s Big Island
HI- Hawaiian Mythology
HI - Top 5 Kauai Nature Attractions
LA- Mardi Gras Indians Super Sunday
MT- Hiking Glacier National Park
NC- Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
NC- Asheville's Green Restaurants Scene
NC- Greensboro Travel Guide
NC- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
NC- Outer Banks Wild Horses
NM- Top 5 Eco Attractions
NY- Going Green in NYC
WV- Outdoor Adventures
Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone- Lamar Valley
Yellowstone- Grand Canyon & Hayden Valley
Yellowstone- Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone- Lower Geyser Basin

MEXICO
Cancun- Cancun Underwater Museum
Cancun- Mayan Museum of Archaeology
Cancun- Swimming with Whale Sharks
Riviera Maya- Monkeys, Pyramids & Pottery
Riviera Maya- Rio Secreto
Riviera Maya- Tulum & Coba
 
• CARIBBEAN