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Ancient Africa

Griots and Storytellers

What is a griot?

Griots were the storytellers and entertainers in Ancient Africa. In the Western African culture of the Mande people, most villages had their own griot who was usually a man. Griots were an important part of the culture and social life of the village.


The main job of the griot was to entertain the villagers with stories. They would tell mythical stories of the gods and spirits of the region. They would also tell stories of kings and famous heroes from past battles. Some of their stories had moral messages that were used to teach the children about good and bad behavior and how people should behave in order to make their village stronger.

Drawing of Griot Musicians
Griot Musicians
Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France


Griots were also the historians of Ancient Africa. They would keep track and memorize the history of the village including births, deaths, marriages, droughts, wars, and other important events. The stories and historical events would then be passed down from generation to generation. Because there was no written record of the village history, the stories of the griots became the history and the only record of past events.


The griot also was the musician for the village. Different griots played different instruments. The most popular instruments were the kora (a stringed instrument sort of like a harp), the balafon (a wooden instrument like a xylophone), and the ngoni (a small lute). Griots would often play music while telling stories or singing. Modern Day Griots

There are still many modern day griots in Africa, especially in Western African countries like Mali, Senegal, and Guinea. Some of the most popular African musicians today consider themselves griots and use traditional compositions in their music. Most griots today are traveling griots. They move from town to town performing at special occasions like weddings.

Interesting Facts about the Griots of Africa

To learn more about Ancient Africa:

Ancient Egypt
Kingdom of Ghana
Mali Empire
Songhai Empire
Kingdom of Aksum
Central African Kingdoms
Ancient Carthage

Art in Ancient Africa
Daily Life
Traditional African Religions
Slavery in Ancient Africa
Cleopatra VII
Shaka Zulu

Countries and Continent
Nile River
Sahara Desert
Trade Routes

Timeline of Ancient Africa
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> Ancient Africa

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