Eight hundred years ago,
November 11, 2002 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Eight hundred years ago, the Empire of Mali was the West African equivalent of Byzantium (succeeding Ghana's Rome), and its legendary founder was Sundiata. [more]
posted by languagehat (9 comments total)
The complex society of the empire survived in many respects through the ensuing centuries of disaster and colonization, particularly the secret komo society and the vital role of the griot (actually called jeli or jali in Mali). Last night I saw the great guitarist Djelimady Tounkara, whose first hit (still popular) was a song of praise called "Sunjata" and whose distant ancestor was a king who sheltered Sunjata himself. Now that's what I call tradition.
posted by languagehat at 1:54 PM on November 11, 2002

unfortunately, the legendary city of timbuktu is being swallowed by the sahara, and has been recently designated a world heritage site in hopes of saving it.

other great musicians from mali include singer oumou sangare, kora player toumani diabate, the amazing amadou et mariam, and master blues guitarist ali farka toure.
posted by judith at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2002

Great links, languagehat. Thanks.
posted by D at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2002

Interesting post, languagehat - thanks. I am very psyched about the griot link, and the afropop link makes my day worthwhile. Judith, thanks also for the music links, and for reminding me to pull out my ali farka toure/ry cooder cd.

Here's a good resource on djenne figures and other Mali art, and an interesting story about how farmers are becoming curators of their heritage.

Also, tho this isn't about the ancient civilization, this site offers a spectacular glimpse into Mysterious Mali through photos - well worth a few minutes to view.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:42 PM on November 11, 2002

Thank you, madam. Your second link is a nice (and rare) piece of uplift regarding the archeological heritage of a poor country, and your third is indeed spectacular -- and is actually about the ancient civilization as well, because of cultural continuity; we know the secret societies were around then, and even if the masks weren't the same they probably had a family resemblance. That last link (and the topic of continuity) also reminds me to mention an amazing movie called Yeelen by Souleymane Cissé, one of the finest (and most disorienting) movies I've ever seen. If you get a chance to see it in a theater, run do not walk -- the cinematography is well worth paying extra for.
posted by languagehat at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2002 [1 favorite]

let me second the "yeelen" rave. it's a dazzling film.
posted by judith at 5:28 PM on November 11, 2002

Great stuff. I'm always interested to hear more about this area because I know several people from Ghana. One of them is a prince of one the old royal families, which (I find upon Googling) now claims many members in Cabinet-level positions.
Tounkara seems to be getting around--he was here on Friday. Innocent of the world-class opportunity I was passing up, I saw something else instead, but a friend who went seconds languagehat's recommendation.
Gorgeous photos, madam.
posted by hippugeek at 10:38 PM on November 11, 2002

Threads like this are examples of why Metafilter is still worth the time. Thanks. [/cheerleader]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:04 AM on November 12, 2002

mali fever also running high in conceptual agit-pop indie person damon albarn's veins.
'Touring the capital Bamako and its surrounding villages, he sat in on club and private jam sessions, playing concerts and street corners, bars and boats.'
"My idea is to set up loads of dialogues between this music and other music that I love. I'm sick of the cultural self-assurance you get in the West. I want to get everyone into Malian music"
posted by asok at 3:39 AM on November 12, 2002

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