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Baker's Dozen

Listening To The Messages: Oumou Sangaré's Favourite Albums
David McKenna , July 10th, 2019 08:36

Malian musician Oumou Sangaré speaks to David McKenna about her favourite music, being discovered by Ali Farka Touré, and collaborating with Alicia Keys and Tony Allen


 Toumani Diabaté's Symmetric Orchestra – Boulevard de l'independence
It's a really lively album with lots of collaborations and that's why it's magical. He's from the family of griots, which is another one of our traditions. The griots carry messages too but they're guardians of tradition, they're a bit like our libraries. As before we didn't write that much, the griots transmitted information from father to son. Every family had its griot, for example my family's griot will come and tell me about my father, my grandfather and great-grandfather. When you want to know where you came from, you ask your family's griot, even when you're a child. And he can tell you about things your family did, what your parents did, up to the present day. And because they know the family histories, they can also help settle disputes and create connections between us. 

Also, if you want to ask someone to marry you, you send a griot. A noble might be afraid of being rejected if they asked for a neighbour's hand in marriage, so you would send your griot who would tell the father that you wanted to marry his daughter. 

If the neighbour refused, the griot wouldn't come back and say that the answer was 'no'. He would say 'listen, he would love to accept but there's already been another proposal'. He would soften the message, so even if the neighbour had been insulting the griot wouldn't say that. The griot is so important, he calms aggression, he softens things, he flatters.