Past and present of the West African music

Popular and traditional music permeate each other in West Africa – Senegal, Mali and Guinea – on many levels. Popular music, which is meant for a broad and differentiated spectrum of audiences, is eclectic, mixing the old with the new, the native with the foreign. It is meant for entertainment. In the past, ‘supplying’ music for entertainment was one of the tasks of the griots. Nowadays, it is the task of the pop musicians. However, no pop musician will ever replace a griot at one of the rites associated with the stages of human life, for the griot is not only a virtuoso of the traditional musical instruments but also a local historian and genealogist, a teacher-keeper of folk wisdom, and the one who organizes and leads the ritual life. Griots are perceived as standing low on the social ladder and there are numerous funny anecdotes in which griots are depicted as fools and cowards, yet the songs they sing are treated very seriously. The stars of pop music are worshipped in their countries, but few musicians become stars. Popular music can equally well be the instrument of pro-government propaganda as an expression of social discontent. Yet the direction of its future development will be determined by the rules of the marketplace. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Title: Past and present of the West African music
Author: Glogowski, Maciej
Year: 2001
Periodical: Africana Bulletin
Issue: 49
Pages: 171-187
Language: English
Geographic term: West Africa
Abstract: Popular and traditional music permeate each other in West Africa – Senegal, Mali and Guinea – on many levels. Popular music, which is meant for a broad and differentiated spectrum of audiences, is eclectic, mixing the old with the new, the native with the foreign. It is meant for entertainment. In the past, ‘supplying’ music for entertainment was one of the tasks of the griots. Nowadays, it is the task of the pop musicians. However, no pop musician will ever replace a griot at one of the rites associated with the stages of human life, for the griot is not only a virtuoso of the traditional musical instruments but also a local historian and genealogist, a teacher-keeper of folk wisdom, and the one who organizes and leads the ritual life. Griots are perceived as standing low on the social ladder and there are numerous funny anecdotes in which griots are depicted as fools and cowards, yet the songs they sing are treated very seriously. The stars of pop music are worshipped in their countries, but few musicians become stars. Popular music can equally well be the instrument of pro-government propaganda as an expression of social discontent. Yet the direction of its future development will be determined by the rules of the marketplace. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]