Bakary  Soumano

 

The good griot is the custodian of  tradition, the guarantor of  customs, the vessel of collective memory, a bulwark against  cultural erosion. " Bakary Soumano"

The late Bakary Soumano was Chief  of the Griots of Bamako, a hereditary position which he performed with great distinction. As he said, the griots are "the blood of the people." Their counsel is sought by the powerful and the weak alike, and Bakary was a valued friend to presidents as well as a guiding light and an educator to many less exalted citizens.  For  66 years, he  served  the community, preaching respect for tradition. He did not believe that the problems of Mali, or those of Africa, could be solved by modernity and capital investment.

 

Bakary Soumano gave his imprimatur to the struggle against the Talo Dam by means of an extraordinary gesture: He declared himself the personal griot of Jean-Louis Bourgeois, AKA Baber Maiga  the American activist and historian of adobe architecture who helped found the Djenne Intiative 

Bakary was thus designating a white foreigner as a hero in an African epic, an unprecedented honor, especially coming from so distinguished a griot. 

Unfortunately, on July 23, 2003,  before Bakary could compose this epic, he succumbed to an illness. His funeral was attended by the President and the First Minister of Mali, as well as the artistic and cultural elite of the country.  

Bakary's mantle now passes to his eldest son, the 42-year-old Mamadou Soumano


"The word " griot " originates in a Western misnomer.  Colonizers confused the Malian phenomenon with the Portuguese public crier, or  "criado". They gallicized criado as "griot ",