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Three Generations of Griots

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The legacy of the griot in America, through the lenses of three generations...

Imagine you’re the keeper of a family tradition that dates back 800 years.  You and your kin are tellers of history, spiritual counselors, and you do your work through the medium of music.  You’ve learned your art from your father – your father from his father before him.  You’re respected.  You’re venerated.  You’re essential.
 
  And then you pack up and travel 4000 miles away.  You land in a country where you don’t speak the language.  You’re anonymous and utterly out of your element.  This is what happened to West African griot Cheick Hamala Diabate, and this week on the program we hear his story.  We also meet Baba Baile McKnight, an African-American who embraced the Black Power Movement and traveled to Africa in search of his roots.  And we’ll visit with Amadou Kouyate, the American-born son of a Senegalese griot, a child literally of two worlds.
 
This episode of The Signal is a co-production of  radio producer Aaron Henkin and Maryland Traditions folklorist Cliff Murphy.

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs for WYPR. His current project is the neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks, which earned the 2018 national Edward R Murrow Award. His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times. Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, PRI’s Studio 360, & The World.