Singing With Griots in Dakar: How Traditional Vocal Music has Traversed the Ethnicities, Languages, and Generations of Senegal

Home Institution

Gettysburg College

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Senegal: National Identity and the Arts


The purpose of this alternative project is to investigate the traditional songs of the different languages of Senegal, specifically Pulaar, Mandingue and Wolof, and their meanings. In this study I investigate the vocal technique and form[1] used in the songs of griots[2] as well as griots’ insight into how they cope as traditional musicians in a modernizing society. My objectives include learning about the nuances of the traditional music of each ethnic group, and identifying the cultural significance of griots in Senegalese society today. My methods consist of voice lessons, interviews, recording, doing translations, attending rehearsals and concerts, and using literary resources.

[1] Form is a musicological term. Examples include ABA form, where the first portion of the song repeats, or call-and-response form where one solo voice/instrument sounds and the others repeat in response.

[2] The musicians/storytellers/historians of ancestral oral tradition in West Africa


Ethnomusicology | Linguistic Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology

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