Saturday, May 21, 2022

Storytellers known as griots

In the region of West Africa known as the western Sahel, legendary tales are shared and passed down through different forms of expression.

A griot is a West African historian, storyteller, entertainer, praise singer, poet and they are trained to excel as orators, lyricists and musicians. The griot profession is hereditary and has long been a part of West African culture.

The griot is often seen as a leader due to his or her position as an advisor to royal personages. As a result of the former of these two functions, he or she is sometimes called a bard. Born into their highly respected position, griots play an important role. As well as being storytellers, they are poets, historians, genealogists, and musicians. The griot keeps records of all the births, deaths, marriages through the generations of the village or family.

The main job of the griot was to entertain the villagers with stories. They would tell mythical stories of the gods and spirits of the region. They would also tell stories of kings and famous heroes from past battles.

Griots originated in the 13th century in the Mande empire of Mali. For centuries, they have told and retold the history of the empire, keeping their stories and traditions alive. They tell their stories to music, using instruments such as the ngoni, the kora or the balafon. And as such, have for centuries retold the history of the empire, thus keeping their history and traditions alive.

Most griots were men, but women can also be griots. Women griots usually specialized in singing. Griots form an endogamous caste, meaning that most of them only marry fellow griots. They pass the tradition of storytelling along the familial line. Each aristocratic family of griots accompanied a higher-ranked family of warrior kings or emperors.

The training for younger members born into a griot family is usually thorough spending years of listening and memorizing.
Storytellers known as griots

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