Hopefully you have had a chance to read my entry regarding beginning
kora lessons. While the kora lesson tonight was quite fulfilling onto
itself, it is what happened after the lesson which I'll be writing
Diane (the other teacher) had already finished her kora lesson and
was busy learning french from an outside professor. After playing a
tune, Jelimady stayed sitting down and the four of us began a most
interesting conversation. So much was said (and I missed some of it,
as most of the conversing was done in french), but I'll try to tell
you what I remember and understood.
Although griots are not the highest cast group, they are one of the
most respected. From little on, children of a griot family are taught
proper behavior, how to listen, and of course music. They are taught
that information revealed to them by others is strictly confidential
and that it is much better to listen. Therefore, griots are confided
upon quite regularly, including life-long matters such as choosing a
mate. All information passed down to and from the griot is verbal -
no written records are kept. Therefore, griots must have great
memories and be very attentive. Traditionally, people marry within
their own casts. For griots, that means marrying within the griot
caste. While you are born into a griot family, you can lose the
qualification of griot if you fail to keep things confidential, talk
more than listening, etc.
Some History of Mali (from the perspective of the Malians)
Mali was one of many nearby countries that was colonialized by the
French. Although the people of Mali resisted, they were not of
violent nature and didn't have the weaponry to outdo the French. The
French were opressive. That is, they were firm about trying to
eliminate all that made Mali so culturally rich. They, for example,
told the Malians that the kora and buffalon were bad - that Malians
should no longer play them. Local languages such as Bambara were also
degraded, with French thrust upon the people as the "official"
In 1958, France "asked" the colonial countries whether they would
like to be independent. Actually, it was more like a threat, and the
countries were made well aware of the the negative consequences of a
decision for independence. Only one country had the boldness and
confidence to defy France and vote for independence. Two years later,
Mali and the other colonial countries became independent. When the
french left, they uprooted and took along with them hospitals and
other services vital to the area. The countries were already
exploited, never to be the same.
Typical of African countries, Mali is composed of many ethnic groups.
Bambara, Malinke, Tuareg, Dogon and Fulani are a few of the groups in
Mali. Unlike other countries (including some not so far away from
Mali), the professor and griot were quick to point out that Mali's
groups have not had bitter disputes and have lived in relative
harmony. The professor attributed it to the fact that each group had
ruled Mali at one time or another in history. There is no need or
desire for revenge.
I can't wait to hear and learn more. The more I learn, the greater
the level of appreciation I have for the culture.