Origin of the Jali

Researchers have delved into the question of the origin of the Jali with such veracity that there have been unearthed as many different answers as there have been researchers.

One of the most often heard accounts on the origin of the Jali deals with the story of a man named Suraqa ben Malik ben Ju’shum, more commonly referred to as Sourakata among the Mande. Islams’ influence is extremely pervasive throughout West Africa and, for this reason you will find much of the historical records and perspectives influence by its’ presence. Sourakata, as the legend states, was a disbeliever who threatened to kill the Prophet Mohammed to prove that Mohammed’s God was powerless, rather than allow himself to be converted. Sourakata attempted to attack Mohammed, charging his horse toward the prophet. Three times Sourakata’s horse was gripeed by the sand, throwing him to the ground. It has been said that on the third occasion of being thrown, Sourakata realized the power of the Prophet Mohammed’s God and began to shout Mohammed’s praises. It is from this point on that Sourakata proclaims his allegiance to Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. Sourakata then accompanies the religious leader on all of his travels, singing and announcing his praises upon entrance into a new town for anyone who will listen.

This is but one variant of the Sourakata legend, of which there are dozens that I am, personally, aware.

Sourakata is, by no means, the only legend associated with the origin of the Jali. There are, literally, hundreds more, depending on the region of West Africa you travel into. Besides the many versions of the story of Sourakata, there are also many non-Islamic etiological legends of the Jali.

Want to explore a little further? Then choose any of the topics below to learn a little more about the world or griots and the craft of Jaliyaa.

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