Singing With Griots in Dakar: How Traditional Vocal Music has Traversed the Ethnicities, Languages, and Generations of Senegal

Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2013

Department 1

Center for Global Education


The purpose of this alternative project is to investigate the traditional songs of the different languages of Senegal, specifically Pulaar, Mandingue and Wolof, and their meanings. In this study I investigate the vocal technique and form used in the songs of griots as well as griots’ insight into how they cope as traditional musicians in a modernizing society. My objectives include learning about the nuances of the traditional music of each ethnic group, and identifying the cultural significance of griots in Senegalese society today. My methods consist of voice lessons, interviews, recording, doing translations, attending rehearsals and concerts, and using literary resources.

This paper was written for the Senegal: National Identity and the Arts program.