The role of the griot in west africa among the mandinka

Document Type:Research Paper

Subject Area:Cultural Studies

Document 1

They are responsible for keeping the records of events in their communities such as births, marriages and deaths through generations. As masters of their oral traditions, they are very important people in West Africa. The origin of Griots is the 13th Century Mande Empire in Mali (Keita n. p. For many years, they have kept the history of their communities alive through the use of music and instruments like kora, balafon or the ngoni (Keita n. com, 2019). The third class consisted of members of the caste like leather workers and carpenters. The griots belonged to this group but had a special place since they had a unique relationship with the rulers. The fourth group consisted of the slaves. Members of a particular social class were not supposed to marry outside that social class (Accessgambia.

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There is a process set for the transmission of these traditions from one generation to another. Prince has his griot. Nare Maghan tells his son that “in Manding, every prince has his griot. Doua was my father’s griot; Doua is my griot; the son of Doua, Balla Fasseke whom you see will be your griot” (Niane 39). A griot is not made, they are born through a sacred blood link. The reciter in Shango by Ola Balogun is both an historiographer and a mediator between the ancestors and the living, he says “Who… knows better than me, the mediator between the ancestors sofar away and the actual occupants of the earth? I am the master of the word! The forms of the past emerges everywhere at my call, for I draw my substance from the sacred fire which declares the past and the future” (Balogun 16).

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Here, the reciter is shown as the one who passes tradition on and is responsible for perpetuating ancestral values, a living witness of his tribe’s history. The griots are a link between the past of the community and the present. They incorporate into their tales any events that may be relevant to the community’s understanding of the past such as heroic stories and pre-colonial conditions. They are conscious of their role in the community and refer to themselves as the source of truth II. To these events, the griot would take along with him his son and the kola. The tales would be accompanied with the instrument and could be given in the form of a speech, recitation and singing.

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There would be repetition and frequent exaggeration to emphasize the significance of an event and to help the people to understand the moral message being passed across (King 101). The griot would use speech when giving accounts of events in his own words and make a recitation when making general life observations and praising great men and warriors. The griot would make moral judgments and refer to his own perspective and the credibility of where he got his knowledge of traditional occurrences. The advent of colonialism brought with it new structures of authority and did away with many roles of the traditional rulers and the traditional structure of the community. This greatly affected the role of the griots whose main role was in preserving the traditional structure and customs of the community as well as in helping the rulers in the traditional setting (Thomas 2018).

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Their role, thus, reduced in significance as they were no longer required in counselling the new rulers on how to run issues in the community. New laws were introduced which replaced most of the traditional customs that the griots were custodians off, with some of them being considered unlawful and “repugnant to justice and morality. ” Therefore, most of the traditional roles that the griots played are no longer relevant today. com/information/mandinka. html Balogun, Olatunbosun.  Shango: Suivi De Le Roi-Éléphant. Paris: Pierre Jean Oswald, 1971. Print.  Seckou Keita, 2019, http://www. seckoukeita. com/my-story/my- culture/. King, Adele.  The Writings of Camara Laye. com/core-concentration/who-were-to-griots-and-why-were-they- important-to-west-african-society. Thomas, A. "From the Griot of Roots to the Roots of Griot: A New Look at the Origins of a Controversial African Term for Bard.

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