The Functions of Griots - Sundiata Essay

1127 Words Nov 7th, 2006 5 Pages
Djeli Mamoudo Kouyate is a griot in the country of Guinea, West Africa; he lives in the village of Djeliba Koro, on the Niger River, and is the main source of information for the book Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. The book focuses on the trials and tribulations of Sundiata, a legendary warrior, king, and founder of the Mali Empire; and the functions of griots in serving their king. Sundiata is born to Sogolon, and is supposed to become the king of Mali, but Sundiata cannot walk until he turns 11 years old, and his half brother, Dankaran Touman, becomes the king. Dankaran exiles Sundiata and his family, and Balla Fasseke, Sundiata's griot, prepares the family for exile. During exile, Sundiata gathered a very strong army, with dreams …show more content…
The history of kings is also important information for the griots to have so they can tell kings of their ancestors battles, to make sure the king knows what he is capable of and to give him inspiration for the battle ahead.

Second, griots have a passion for music, and this is also one of their most important contributions to their king and culture. The griot uses song for many purposes, and is very skilled at creating emotion with their songs. A song can be to praise, to celebrate, to raise spirits of warriors, or to control. When Sogolon, Sundiata's mother, first came to the town of Nianiba, the griots in the crowd sang songs of praise (10). An excellent example of the griots using a song to celebrate is on p.21, when Sundiata first stood up and bent a metal bar into a bow, Balla Fasseke, Sundiata's griot, sang "Hymn to the Bow", a song created to celebrate and inform the townspeople of the young mans power. Page 54 contains a song by the griots with the specific purpose of inspiring Sundiata's warriors to victory. They had won their battle earlier that day, but Sundiata's army was fearful for the future. This song helped ensure victory for Sundiata, another essential attribute of griots. Griots have found yet another use for song, to control or persuade. This is best seen when Balla Fasseke is playing king Soumaoro's balafon (40). King Soumaoro is a rival king to Sundiata, and this is a

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