Griots hold the memory and history of a community. They are the storytellers, musicians and singers of songs of praise. They are the archives. They are the historians. They speak the history of our people. They are our oral historians.
Growing up in Gambia in the eighties, I have vivid memories of listening to the songs and poetry of Griots as they sang with melodic voices. I recall their nimble fingers plucking the cords of a Kora as they chorused with emotion. I was fascinated by the scale and power of their presence and performance, compounded by their Grand Buba outfits, one of our traditional garments comprising a long shirt made of reams of material gathered up and draped over the shoulders, with trousers and a matching hat. The Griot would balance what from my vantage point as a small child appeared to be a huge Kora, longer than their torso. They would then masterfully weave their fingers up and down the cords to attentive ears. My awe was shared by many, for Griots commanded the respect of the people and occupied the same space as the head of the family, community leaders, noblemen and dignitaries.