The Functions of Griots - Sundiata

1139 words 5 pages
Djeli Mamoudo Kouyate is a griot in the country of Guinea, West Africa; he lives in the village of Djeliba Koro, on the Niger River, and is the main source of information for the book Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. The book focuses on the trials and tribulations of Sundiata, a legendary warrior, king, and founder of the Mali Empire; and the functions of griots in serving their king. Sundiata is born to Sogolon, and is supposed to become the king of Mali, but Sundiata cannot walk until he turns 11 years old, and his half brother, Dankaran Touman, becomes the king. Dankaran exiles Sundiata and his family, and Balla Fasseke, Sundiata's griot, prepares the family for exile. During exile, Sundiata gathered a very strong army, with dreams …show more content…
However, Balla Fasseke uses his sharp intellect and awesome musical power to get himself out of trouble. Upon seeing the king he quickly strikes up a beautiful song praising king Soumaoro, and the king is entranced in the songs beauty. Instead of punishing Balla Fasseke, the king steals him from Sundiata and takes him as his own griot, the use of song saved his life.

Last and certainly not least, it is the griots duty to become the best friend and counselor to his king. The griot and king become best friends easily, due to the amount of time they spend together. A griot hardly ever leaves his kings side, and they grow up together from an early age. Sundiata and Balla Fasseke were united when Sundiata was only seven years old (17), Nare Maghan tells Sundiata he will be king one day, and all kings have a griot. Nare Maghan explained that Balla's father was his griot, and now Balla Fasseke was Sundiata's griot. "…Be inseparable friends from this day forward, (17)" Nare Maghan instructed his son. This shows that the friendship between a king and his griot is just as much a tradition as everything else, it does not just happen, the king is instructed to become best friends with his griot. The relationship between a king and his griot may seem unimportant compared to the other jobs of a griot, but it is just as or even more important than the other duties. For instance, how could a king accept battle plans or life changing decisions

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