Malians love to dance, and not only at festivals and celebrations.
Anytime there is a gathering and the mood is right, people
will immediately start dancing. While mask dances are performed
as traditional events, dance parties and the like are organized
within families and neighborhoods as part of daily life.
Dancing requires songs and musical instruments, though not just anyone
can perform this role, which is again the station of the griots. In Mali
it is considered shameful for anyone other a griot to sing, and music
class is not part of school curriculums.
Before the advent of writing, the griots were storytellers who used music
to recount history. Their narrating of the history of extended families
is hereditary and carried on throughout the generations. They will always
be asked to perform at festivities held by the head family, where they
sing songs praising the family's ancestors and the head of the family.
For their singing they receive money, houses, cars and other huge remunerations.
After gaining independence from France in 1960, traditional music, negated
during the colonial period, was performed using contemporary musical
instruments, and became popular music. Its popularity is reflected in
the appearance of musicians such as Salif Keita (unusually a musician
not of griot heritage) and Mory Kante, having huge hits in Europe. The
music of these musicians, incorporating arrangements of traditional music,
is full of variety, from leisurely pieces sung in a smooth voice to those
whose lively rhythm makes one want to dance, and appeals also to the
foreign ear. Griots have always sung about history and family doctrines.
Thus many of the lyrics of contemporary popular music that employ ethnic
words contain phrases praising the kings of ancient kingdoms or are exceedingly
moralistic in tone, reminding one to always respect one's superiors or
that greed is wrong. Nevertheless, all Malians, irrespective of age or
sex, are fond of griot music, and griot music forms an indispensable
part of Malian life.
In recent years, it has become possible to find CDs of Malian
music in Japan and eastern Asian countries. Musicians in the
vanguard of Malian popular music have also visited Japan to
hold concerts, Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate
etc. having done so on a number of occasions. Many Malians
enjoy the music as music, rather than to listen to moralizing
lyrics. This way of experiencing the music should be all the
more possible for the Japanese listener.