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Growing Into Music in 21st Century Bamako

This program presents a musical portrait of Bamako in the wake of crisis. In 2012-13, Islamists occupied the north and a coup d’etat threatened a recent history of functioning democracy. With borders restored and a new elected government in place, we find musical life returning with festivals, nightclub shows and street weddings. But that picture hides darker realities. Ethnomusicologist Lucy Duràn has been studying the oral transmission of music in various countries, notably among griot families in Mali. With her guidance, we explore the precarious lives of griots in today’s Bamako, focusing on the upbringing and education of children in these hereditary families of historian-entertainers. Elders and traditionalists say the griot tradition has been corrupted beyond hope, and even advise their young to pursue different professions. Others persist, within an environment where growing religious conservatism puts increasing pressure on the lives and careers of all musicians. We meet three extraordinarily talented griot children, and hear music and reflections from kora master Toumani Diabaté and his massively popular songwriter son, Sidiki. And we get a fascinating historical perspective from Gregory Mann, professor of history at Columbia University.

Produced by Banning Eyre.

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