African Griot is a West African storyteller, historian, praise singer, poet, or musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition and is often seen as a leader due to their position as an advisor to royal personages.
As a result of the former of these two functions, they are sometimes called a bard. African Griots have been instrumental in passing down history and culture from one generation to the next. They are often considered the keepers of African history and tradition.
In many African cultures, the oral tradition is highly valued and revered. African Griots play an important role in preserving African culture and heritage. African Griots are also often skilled musicians and can play a variety of instruments.
The music of African Griot is often used to tell stories or communicate messages. African Griots have a long and rich history dating back to ancient Africa. They continue to play an important role in African culture today.
Cultural storytelling is one of the oldest and most important traditions in every culture. By reading my article on Cultural Storytelling, you will learn about the importance of cultural storytelling and how it has been used throughout history. You will also gain insight into the different ways that storytelling can be used to entertain, educate, and preserve cultures.
Griots have been around for centuries, and their role in African society is still vital today. Do griots still exist? Yes! There are many griots throughout Africa who continue to share their traditions and culture with others.
In this article, we will explore the Griot definition, the role of the African griots, the instruments they use, and learn more about their fascinating history.
What is Griot?
A griot is a West African troubadour-historian who, in addition to singing praise songs, keeps track of his people’s genealogies and historical events.
Griots have been advisers and diplomats throughout history, although their advisory roles have decreased somewhat in recent years.
The trade of the griot is hereditary, dating back to ancient West African traditions. The kora is a long-necked harp lute with 21 strings played by griots (who are frequently kora players).
While the primary goal of griots has always been to preserve their communities’ history, they have also grown in popularity as performers in recent years. Griots will continue to be an essential component of West African culture, regardless of their changing function in society.
“Griot” (pronounced GREE-oh) is the French name given to the oral historians of West Africa. Traditionally Griots are the oral historians of West Africa. They are dedicated to carrying on the tradition of reciting historical events and local news through song.
Griots have extensive knowledge of history and current events which they share with their community by singing traditional songs. They must recite these songs accurately, without error or deviation.
Griots also make up new songs as they go to share current events, gossip, political commentary, and satire. Their role is to keep their community informed and connected to their history. Griots are an essential part of West African culture.
Do Griots Still Exist?
Today, Griots live in West Africa and are found among the Mande peoples (Mandinka or Malinké, Bambara, etc.), Fulani (Fula), Hausa, Songhai, Tukulor, Wolof, Serer, Mossi, Dagomba Mauritanian Arabs, and several other smaller groups.
The term may come from the French transliteration “guiriot” of the Portuguese word “criado,” or the masculine singular phrase for “servant.” Griots are more common in northern parts of West Africa.
In African languages, griots are referred to by a number of names: jeli in northern Mande areas, jali in southern Mande areas, guewel in Wolof, kevel or kewel or okawul in Serer, gawlo in Pulaar (Fula), iggawen in Hassaniyan, arokin in Yoruba, and diari or gesere in Soninke.
Griots are an endogamous caste, which means that the majority of them marry other griots and non-griots do not undertake the same duties as griots. Griots perform a vital function in West African society as storytellers, similar to medieval European minstrels…
The griot is a walking history book… He is a living archive of the people’s customs, traditions, and histories. The virtuosity of the griots is universally admired. This artistry results from years of study and hard labor under the guidance of a teacher who may be either a father or an uncle.
Griots are not the only ones who are interested in history. The profession is not restricted to men. Griots with comparable talents as vocalists and musicians exist in plenty. The Manding term jeliya (which means ” musician hood “) sometimes refers to griot knowledge, implying that the class is hereditary.
Jali is derived from the Sanskrit term jal, which means “blood.” In areas of the former Mali Empire, this is also the name given to griots. The word “griot” is more popular in English, however others, such as poet Bakari Sumano, prefer jeli.
Griots today frequently perform. Today, one of the most frequent responsibilities of a griot is to perform. Their horizons have broadened considerably, and many griots now travel across borders to play the kora or other instruments.
Bakari Sumano, who was president of the Association of Bamako Griots in Mali from 1994 to 2003 and a famous promoter of the value of the griot in West African culture, was an internationally recognized proponent of their importance in Mali.
What is a Griot in History?
Since the 13th century, when Griots came from the West African Mande empire of Mali, they have served as storytellers, musicians, praise singers, and oral historians for their peoples.
Theirs is a service that is based on preserving their people’s genealogies, historical narratives, and oral traditions. And as a result, they have for centuries recounted the empire’s history in order to keep their history and customs alive.
Traditionally, griots were a social caste with an important role in preserving history from generation to generation; thus, only certain people could be Griots. In many African cultures, griots kept track of all births, deaths, and marriages in the family or community over time.
African storytelling is one of the oldest and most interesting forms of oral literature in the world. It has been used for centuries to entertain, educate, and pass on knowledge. If you want to learn more about this captivating form of storytelling, then read my article on African Storytelling.
The kora (a 21-string lute that sounds like a harp), the balafon, the ngoni, and the voice are used to tell their tales through four primary instruments. It’s most probable that each griot family may keep to one physical instrument and learn how to make and control it, which they then pass on to future generations in their families.
Griots recorded the history of their people for centuries before printing was invented, and they continue to do so today. This is a critical function for preserving a people’s heritage, especially if technology had not advanced as it has now, and the entire lineage and history of nations might have been lost otherwise.
For people who weren’t taught writing or reading, this serves as a good example of how much information they can handle. Caricatures of women performing such as yiracar, khodam, and other indigenous dances have been copied from ancient texts. But the real characters are more often than not portrayed in both forms owing to the aforementioned themes of femininity and health.
Traditional griot castes include some of today’s well-known musicians from West Africa, such as Mory Kante from Guinea, Mansour Seck from Senegal, and vocalist Youssou N’Dour of Senegal.
However, as time progresses and a break from tradition occurs, artists like Salif Keita, who is not part of the line, have taken on a cultural function that would have previously been assigned to someone else.
Griots can be found among a variety of West African groups, including the Mande (Mandinka, Malinké, Bambara), Fula, Hausa, Songhai, Tukulor, Wolof, Serer, Mossi, Dagomba, and many other smaller communities.
The griots of Western Africa can be likened to the ancient Greek, Etruscan (modern Tuscany, Italy), and Roman bards (poets), as well as oral storytellers who utilized buildings and even graves to pass on their tales to their audience.
What is a Griot Person?
The griot was responsible for recording the tribe’s genealogies and oral traditions. They were frequently among the oldest members of a tribe.
Griots are often passed down through families and tend to marry other griots. Griots can still be found in West Africa today. A griot is a historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician from West Africa.
In Mali, the word “griot” comes from the French term for “wailing woman.” Griots are frequent members of the jali class in West Africa and are renowned for their involvement in oral history. Griots play an important role in many societies by preserving a community’s history and traditions.
They usually take up their vocations from their forefathers and pass them down to their kids. Many griots still reside in West Africa today, and they continue to play a significant role in society.
The kora is a 21-string harp constructed of half of a large gourd covered with animal skin. The strings, which are either made of gut or fishing line, are plucked with the fingertips. Griots may play a variety of traditional and modern instruments and are often fantastic musicians.
What Types of Stories do Griots Tell?
The griots of many communities chanted ballads concerning the births, deaths, marriages, battles, hunts, amours, and nearly every other aspect.
The Mali Empire (Malinke Empire), which flourished in the 14th century and encompassed much of central Africa (now Chad and Niger) as well as western Africa (now Mali and Senegal), was one of the most powerful empires in history.
The empire was created by Sundiata Keita, who is still remembered in Mali today. In the Epic of Sundiata, Naré Maghann Konaté offers his son Sundiata Keita a griot, Balla Fasséké, to help him rule. Balla Fasséké is considered the founder of the Kouyaté line of griots that exists to this day.
A group of griots, or hereditary storytellers, accompanied a higher-ranking warrior-king or emperor known as a jatigi. In traditional culture, no griot can exist without a jatigi, and no jatigi may be without one. The jatigi, on the other hand, may lend his griot to another jatigi.
How do You Become a Griot?
The training for younger griots born into a griot family is typically lengthy, with years of listening and memorizing spent.
Traditionally, this begins when children are between the ages of eight and 18 years old, as they begin to learn how to create the instrument used by their family, and progresses until around 18 years old when griots have learned the abilities required to perform hundreds of songs and stories that make up their heritage.
After this last test, the young griot is assigned his or her own instrument. The rigorous old training aids them in comprehending the more complex patterns and melodies rather than simply hearing the instruments themselves.
Griots preserve the oral history of their people for future generations by passing on these responsibilities from one generation to the next.
Musical Instruments used by Griots
Griots perform both singing and social critics, but they are frequently excellent instrumentalists as well. Their instruments include the kora, the khalam (or xalam), the goje (or n’ko in Mandinka), the balafon, the junjung, and the ngoni.
The kora is a 21-string lute with a long neck. The xalam is an inferior version of the kora, having fewer than five strings. Both instruments have gourd bodies that function as resonators. With five or six strings, the ngoni is comparable to these two instruments.
The balafon is a xylophone made out of wood, whereas the goje is a stringed instrument played with a bow, similar to a fiddle. The Encyclopædia Britannica states that plucked lutes from West Africa, such as the konting, khalam, and nkoni (described by Ibn Baṭṭūṭah in 1353), may have derived from ancient Egypt.
The banjo’s alleged forebear is the khalam, according to legend. South Africa has a ramkie, another long-necked lute. The griots also wrote stories that children liked hearing. These folktales were handed down from generation to generation.
Griot is a Haitian dish made out of pork shoulder. It’s marinated in citrus juice, braised, and then fried. It’s commonly eaten at gatherings. Griot, along with diri ak pwa wouj (red beans and rice), is considered to be Haiti’s “national dish.”
Griot is made mostly from pork shoulder. The meat was washed in a combination of citrus juices and then rinsed. Meat should always be cleaned, even if clean water is available.
Following this process, the meat is marinated in Epis, a combination of Haitian herbs, vegetables, and spices. The meat is then braised or roasted until soft. The cooking liquid is utilized to prepare a sauce known as – sos ti-malis.
Finally, the meat is deep-fried until golden brown and crispy. Pikliz is frequently served with rice or bannann peze as well.
African Griot – Conclusion
African griots are one of the most important cultural heritage holders in African society. African griots are professional storytellers, oral historians, praise singers, and musicians who maintain African historical records, genealogies, and oral traditions.
They have played a significant role in African history since their establishment centuries ago and have contributed to the African oral tradition. African griots were originally in charge of recording all births, deaths, and marriages within families or communities.
Today, African griots continue to play an important role in African society by sharing African history and culture with others. African griots are a valuable resource for understanding African history and culture. They provide firsthand accounts of important events and people that have shaped African history.
Griots also play an important role in contemporary African society by promoting understanding and cross-cultural communication between Africans and the world. African griots are an integral part of African culture and history.