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Did you know?
- Africa Facts
- Africa Flash Cards
Art and Society
- Tour Senegal
- Hear a jeli sing
- The baobab tree
- Religious life

The Grassfields of Cameroon



The Land
- The Great Sahara Desert
- Two ways to count to 10

I'm an artisan of words 

My name is Souriba Kouyate (SOOR-ee-BA koo-YA-ta). Since the 1300s, members of my family have been jeli - artisans of the spoken word.

 Like a walking encyclopedia, the jeli can tell the history of many West African peoples. Once jeli acted as advisors, confidants and praise-singers for nable families. Today anyone can hire a jeli to announce a marriage, take part in a naming ceremony, or memorize family history.

 A jeli sometimes sets words to music. I play the kora - the instrument that I'm holding here. Other jeli play the balafon, an instrument like the xylophone, or the xalam, an instrument like the guitar.

 To watch an interview of Souriba or to watch him play the kora, select one of the following options. Note: Parts of the following video are in French with English subtitles. The subtitles may be difficult to read. 

Music Video
A sixteenth screen, 2.7 MB, 1 frames/sec
(high speed connection recommended)

1.2 MB music sound track.
(low speed connection okay) 

Many West Africans play the kora 

The kora is a musical instrument made by attaching a long, wooden neck to a calabash. A kora may have as many as 21 strings. Players pluck and strum the strings and drum on the kora's hollow body. The African-American banjo probably comes from the kora.


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