Hale (Pennsylvania State Univ.), already well known for his other publications on the griot (masculine) and griotte (feminine), provides here an encyclopedic introduction to and overview of this ubiquitous and important West African figure. His text starts with the obscure and debated etymology of the word and a definition of this role in terms of traditional functions, which include poet, praise-singer, oral historian, and ritual figure, to name only some regular activities. He then moves on to the possible origin of the griot in the dim past of the region's complicated history. Subsequent chapters consider the making of a griot and the complicated social status of these individuals, i.e. both admired and debased, in the numerous societies in which they appear. Other sections, on the significance of female griottes and the spread of this African cultural symbol to other parts of the world, are less didactic and as such provide fresher reading. Taken together with Paul Stoller's more interpretive work The Cinematic Griot (CH, Jan'93), Hale's study is a valuable addition to the literature on both African societies and the African Diaspora. Upper -- division undergraduates and above.W. Arens, SUNY at Stony Brook 1999oct CHOICE.
"Hale... provides here an encyclopedic introduction to and overview of this ubiquitous and important West African figure.... a valuable addition to the literature on both African societies and the African Diaspora. Upper-division undergraduates and above." -- Choice, October 1999
"Thomas A. Hale's clearly written, informative work is a comprehensive historical and contemporary account of the griot phenomenon, which originated in West Africa....It is, in its entirety, of benefit to a variety of researchers from fields as diverse as history, music, anthropology and sociology, linguistics and literature." -- African Studies Quarterly, Volume 11.2 & 3, Spring 2010
About the Author
Thomas A. Hale is Professor of African, French, and Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University. His publications include an edition and translation, The Epic of Askia Mohammed (Indiana University Press, 1996).