Contemporary Jaliyaa

No longer does the griot have his royal benefactors to maintain his place in the palace of kings. Royal monarchies have all but disappeared from the landscape of West Africa. The royal positions in the courts of kings have been replaced by government officials, government employees and bureaucrats. The Jali, along with his craft, has evolved in order to survive. The Jali has become a touring artist, utilizing his instrumentation or verbal talents to make it in today’s world.

Many Jalolu have garnered world wide reputations as musicians, scholars, poets and entertainers. The tradition of the painstaking form of griot apprenticeship is giving way to the strife of economic gain and survival. There are still many of the elder griots who are traditionalists, holding true to the form of Jaliyaa taught to them by their fathers and grandfathers. The lives of these elder griots are not as attractive as those seeking their rewards in a non-traditional setting (European concert tours, record deals, technological production, etc.) The orature of the griot may survive the onslaught of advancing, faster paced material cultures; for, in the beginning there was the word and, in the end, what more can there be?

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