"If you think of West Africa as a body, the Griot is its blood,"

-Toumani Diabate


For close to a millennium, the Griot, West Africa’s rich and colorful collective of professional historians, storytellers, poets, visual artists, dancers and musicians have kept the spirit of their people alive through the power of their music and dance.

Amidst the backdrop of Vodun, Islam, French colonialism, the Slave Trade and poverty, they have persisted and succeeded in passing down their tradition from one generation the next. Like threads cast out into time, they exist today as many of the strongest living links to hundreds of years of unrecorded oral West African history, music, genealogy and tradition.  They have powerfully influenced the roots of North American and South American music, and without their diasporic and historical presence, music like the Blues, Rap, Salsa and many Afro-Latin beats would not exist today.


Interweaving interviews, performance, live music, storytelling, text, and archival footage, the film will explore the Griots’ rich oral tradition.  Through the framework of one exceptional family of Griot artists split between West Africa and America, we will examine the dual and shifting nature of identity and the inherent challenges that come packed with economic opportunity abroad.  We will explore the powerful historical ties between Griot music and African-American music, and also confront the rejection and racism that is at times initiated by African-Americans towards newly immigrated Africans.


Through the power and medium of this film, we hope to embark upon a unique musical an cultural journey, and to gain deeper insight into the often overlooked complexities and endurance of the rich cultural heritage of West Africa and its broader interconnectedness and influence on the music and culture of the world. And finally, we hope to explore what the prospects are for the survival of the Griot and other complex oral traditions like theirs in our ever-increasingly global and technical societies.



Malika Weeden