Griot: Keeping The Tradition of African Storytelling Alive

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Tags: Africa , culture , griot , Storytelling , Tradition ,

Even with the vast adoption of western culture across Africa, you can still trace their lifestyle to the remaining shreds of their African culture. If you are lucky to travel to the very heart of Africa, the rural areas, the African culture is very much alive. Here, you will realize Africa is still African; the people of Africa are still holding to their culture; their beliefs, festivities, values, and practices. One such example is in west Africa, where the levity and the fate of the culture are bestowed by storytellers. Among the West African communities, the continuity of the culture is embedded in telling stories, songs, proverbs, and poems. It is the perfect way to ensure that each generation learns its origin and the ways of their land. Like most African communities, their chosen custodians of the culture and the Griots are just a perfect example of such a class of people.


Traditional Griot

Tracing their origin from the Mande people in the 13th century, the Griots are renowned West African historians, storytellers, poets, musicians, vocalists, and skilled instrumentalists. In the old days, Griots were strict advisors to the kings and the royal class. They also were the custodians of the communities’ history and ensured that the history of the communities was passed on from one generation to another. Before the colonial ere, Griots were profoundly endogamous caste, meaning they Griots could only marry their fellow griots. The institution of marriage was purposeful; the cultural stories of the Mande people were passed along the family line to ensure that each generation had a storyteller, a Griot.

In order to be recognised as a community Griot, it would require years of training and mastery of the vast number of historical stories, songs, and instruments. Ideally, the role of the Griots was multifaceted; their work was entirely service rendering. They would offer their advice to the noble call and would, in turn, expect rewards for their service.

The role of the griots was very patent to the community. They were the custodians and they ensured the preservation of culture. They worked to ensure that the stories beat the edges of time and kings to reach each generation, especially at a time when technology was not evolved. In fact, no king would rule the lands of the Mande people without a Griot. He was there to provide the much-needed advice by the kings. The two came in a package or rather sinuses twin; one could only exist if the other existed.

 

Modern Griots

With the advancement in tech, urbanization, and westernization, the role of Griots amongst communities is gradually diminishing. Even in the remote areas of these western lands, their roles are progressively vanishing. They are no longer the profound storytellers and the custodian of the African culture. They have evolved to be renowned entertainers beyond the boundaries of their communities. They are today’s West Africa’s highly ranked musicians. Musicians such as Mory Kanté from Guinea and Youssou N’Dour are just but a few of the musicians that come from the Griots lineage.

Even though their roles may have evolved, one can still feel and appreciate their endeavour to champion African culture conservation.

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