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   In Griot Time
An American Guitarist in Mali
by Banning Eyre
Retail Price: $9.99
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Category: Reggae & World Music
Code: 1319 |  ISBN: 1566397596 |  280 pp. |  Publication Date: 2000
Publisher: Temple Univ Press
Format: Trade Paperback
About this book
Djelimady Tounkara is only one of the memorable people you will meet in this dramatic narrative of life among the griot musicians of Mali. Born into families where music and the tradition of griot stroy-telling is a heritage and a privilege, Djelimady and his fellow griots?both men and women?live their lives at the intersection of ancient traditions and the modern entertainment industry. During the seven months he spent living and studying with Djelimady, Banning Eyre immersed himself in a world that will fascinate you as it did him.

Eyre creates a range of unforgettable portraits. Some of the people who stride through his pages are internationally known, musicians like Salif Keita, Oumou Sangar?, and Grammy winner Ali Farka Tour?. But the lesser-known characters are equally fascinating: Adama Kouyat?, Djelimady's dynamic wife; Moussa Kouyat?, the Tounkara family's own griot; Yayi Kanout?, the flamboyant jelimuso (female griot) who failed to take America by storm; Foutanga Babani Sissoko, the mysterious millionaire who rebuilt an entire town and whose patronage is much sought after by the griots of Bamako.

But the picture Eyre draws is not just a series of portraits. Out of their interactions comes a perceptive panorama of life in Mali in the late twentieth centruy. The narrative gives us a street-level view of the transformation of musical taste and social customs, the impact of technology, and the pressures of poverty, at a curcial time in Mali's history. In individual after individual, family after family, we see the subtle conflicts of heritage and change. Even the complications of democracy?with democracy, mango vendors think they can charge anything they want, Djelimady points out?are woven into an unforgettable saga of one man, his family, his profession, and the world of Malian music.

"Banning's book presents a riveting, richly illustrative and insightful look into his extraordinary seven month journey deep into the heart of Mali's music scene. To have been accepted both personally and musically is amazing in itself...that he writes about it this well is a revelation. The explosion and popularity and appetite for world music, Banning's book is a one of a kind primer on just how deep the connection runs between West African cultural traditions and nearly all of our Western popular music. I can't remember when a Westerner has been able to dive so deeply into another culture with such soulful results. His adventures inspired me to make my own journey with him to Mali this year...I had to see and hear this extraordinary world for myself."
?Bonnie Raitt


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