Thank you for visiting this site and for your interest in freedom singing, story circles civil rights and human rights movement culture and traditions. Here, you will find information about story circles, history on the art of the Jali, and stories of New Orleans and southern Louisiana justice movement history.  Enjoy!   – Wendi Moore-O’Neal

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Jaliyah – The Art of the Jali

The Jali, pl. Jalolu, in French called Griot, is a member of the professional musician’s caste of the Manding society, a large group of peoples in West Africa (Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal and the Gambia). Many West african societies know this “singer” profession that may be compared with the Troubadours in European middle age.

This profession is hereditary, in the great family clans Kouyate, Diabate (Jobateh), Konte (Kanute), Cissokho (Suso) and others. For centuries they have been court musicians, advisors and diplomats in the service of wealthy personalities, political and religious leaders.
His art is the Jaliya (“what the Jali does”) – instrumental as musician and vocal as praise singer, historian, geneologist, story teller, entertainer and more generally, jalis are carriers of the oral tradition. The men sing and play the instruments Kora, Balafon and Konting, the women are singers and play the Newo, a metal percussion instrument. Jaliya is a very complex connection of musical and verbal art forms, embedded in the social context of the Manding cultures.

At social (marriage) and religious, also private occasions they are invited to praise the patrons with musical virtuosity and mastery of the words and to remind the glorious and heroic past of their families. They should not be missing at any important event and they are also sought after as advisors and mediators.

The education of the musicians starts already at an age of 5 years, they are taught by father, uncle, elder brother or by another Jali family. When they are grown up they are mastering the instrumental techniques and the complicated repertoire of songs and instrumental accompaniments, praise names of all the family clans, historical facts, myths and proverbs of the Jaliya, much of that is improvised during the performance. The classical repertoire is very rich, some of the songs date back to the time of Sundiata, the great mythical king of the Mali empire in the 13th century.

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