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Duran, Lucy (2013) '“Poyi! Bamana jeli music, Mali, and the blues”.' Journal of African Cultural Studies, 25 (2). pp. 211-246.

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The search for the African roots of the blues has long been a subject of fascination to writers, scholars and musicians, with Mali taking an increasingly central role in the popular imagination as the missing link in the blues’ DNA. Many Malian artists have found their music being labelled by journalists and record companies with such tags as ‘Mali Blues’, ‘Desert Blues’ and ‘Bambara Blues’, in recognition of the strong stylistic similarities with the Delta Blues in particular. But which way around did the influences travel? A crucial piece to the puzzle is a Bamana jeli (griot) song called ‘Poyi’, which, according to oral tradition, may have been the last tune that war captives of the empire of Segu (1712–1861) heard, before being taken into slavery. This article explores the complex trajectory of the trans-Atlantic conversations between the blues and Mali, by focusing on one musical tradition that has so far been ignored in scholarly studies of both blues and Mande music – that of the Bamana (‘Bambara’) griots from Segu in the middle Niger valley, with their trademark lute, the ngóniba. Drawing both on extensive academic research carried out on Mande music, and on long practical experience of working as music producer of Mande artists, it argues that Bamana music could well be a strong contender for the ‘roots of the blues’.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Music
ISSN: 13696815
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2015 09:42

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