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are the professionals who make up this class. The jalis proper and the finas are the two
subclasses formed by the subdivision of jalis class. The subclass of jalis proper consists
of musicians who inherit the profession from their fathers. The poet–praise singers
who do not play a musical instrument form the subgroup finas. The jalis subgroup
serves as the patron group for the finas in a relationship similar to that where the
nobles in the village serve as patrons to the jalis proper.69
Jalis are entertainers who sing and play music to provide music for listening
pleasure. They perform numerous other functions including mediating between disputants, serving as marriage brokers, and often functioning as intermediaries between
suitors and the parents of the young women considering marriage. Although means
of travel is changing in modern times, Jalis traditionally visited their patrons and
lodged in each of their homes for a few days, bringing their entire family with them.
Currently, however, the state of jaliyaa practice involves several male jalis combining
their resources to hire a taxi, not only to circulate between the homes of their patrons,
but to make visits to the homes of other wealthy people as well.70
Jalis enjoy a special level of privilege enabling them to infringe upon the customs
of society, ignore social restraint, and break social taboos without fear of reprisal.
The foroolu do not enjoy such privileges. A jali could, for example, “insult someone’s
mother or run naked down the street without any serious consequences.”71
The two main instruments on which the jali perform are the kooraa (a twenty-onestringed harp-lute) and baloo (a nineteen- to twenty-one-keyed xylophone). Although
people think of jali in terms of their instrumental capabilities, “a good instrumentalist
does not feel complete unless he has at least one wife who is a good vocalist.”72
One of the best-known classes of African musicians of professional caliber is the
group of griots. Griots are more esoteric musicians who may be recognized by their
characteristic surnames: Keita, Munadi, Diubate, Dibate, Kuyate, and Sory.73 They
are recognized as professional musicians throughout Africa and feared for their dabbling in witchcraft. This caste of people transmit their musical legacies from one
generation to another and serve to invoke supernatural beings, singing praises to
ensure their satisfaction. The role of the griot in some African societies, in regard to
praise singing and historical chants, is extremely important.
Griots, being much more concerned with past events than future ones, are familiar
with the history, the philosophies, ethics, and most other aspects of their societies
and can relate detailed information to their listeners from memory. This may be
accomplished through riddles and proverbs that recall events no longer within the
realm of contemporary memory.
Acquiring their virtuosity from years of study under a tutor, griots are comparable
in many ways to the troubadour of medieval Europe. In addition to telling old stories,
they are constantly collecting new ones for their audiences. Their repertoire includes
50 • Bigotry and the Afrocentric “Jazz” Evolution