“When a griot dies, it is as if a library has burned to the ground.”
— Alex Haley
griot (pron.: /ˈɡri.oʊ/; French pronunciation: [ɡʁi.o]), jali or jeli (djeli or djéli in French spelling) is a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and/or musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition. As such, they are sometimes also called bards. According to Paul Oliver in his book Savannah Syncopators, “Though [the griot] has to know many traditional songs without error, he must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his knowledge of local history formidable”. Although they are popularly known as “praise singers”, griots may also use their vocal expertise for gossip, satire, or political comment.
As one of my college poetry professors once said, “Write, Rite, Right…Always write how and what you feel, but show me rather than tell me.” & he would always tell me to read the works of others, whether old or new, just to get a feel of what else is out there, and what has been done and hasn’t been done.
My Top 5 Influences:
1. Langston Hughes
2. James Baldwin
3. Pablo Neruda
4. Amiri Baraka
5. Charles Bukowski
A Few Honorable Mentions:
Alex Haley, Ralph Ellison, Cornel West, George Orwell, Richard Wright, Albert Murray
©2020 MDSHall in collaboration with the Words on Fire Poetry Workshop and the WordSoundPower Collective.