Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tiécoro Sissoko (Mali Griots' Comments & Griot Song/Spoken Word)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video from Mali, West Africa entitled "Tiécoro Sissoko". That video features comments from a male Griot,Djeli N'goni of Adama Tounkara, and an unnamed female Griot about the legacy of Griots. That video also features a song/spoken word composition by the Griot Tiécoro Sissoko.

English subtitles for this song/spoken word composition were given in the video, and I've re-produced those sub-titles in this post.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, historical, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owner.

FEATURED VIDEO: Tiécoro Sissoko

ksksystemkrush, Published on Aug 1, 2012
Published on Aug 1, 2012
Keme Borama is an album recorded and produced by KSK Records. The 2012 release features Tiécoro Sissoko's classic Djeli singing and phenomenal solo guitar style. Tiécoro is accompanied by the skilled Djeli N'goni of Adama Tounkara musically conversing with Madouba Camara's melodic Kora. In stark comparison to "Afro Pop" this album is a testament to the raw musicality of the Djelis from the Kayes Region of Mali.

(This transcription is from the video's subtitles. These words are reproduced as they are written on the screen except for spacing, and a spelling correction for the word "reputation".)

Djeli N'goni of Adama Tounkara with background Kora playing by Madouba Camara:
No matter how you can be
You shouldn’t forget about your roots.
That is what is in this country.
We are the Griots.
The culture was created, put in a suitcase…
And given to us to protect.
If we weren’t here to save the past...
the lineage would be lost.
Here in Mali our kingdom will never disappear.

Female speaker seated next to Djeli N'goni of Adama Tounkara with background Kora playing by Madouba Camara:
Being a Griot belongs to us.
I have been a Griot since I was little.

Djeli N'goni of Adama Tounkara with background Kora playing by Madouba Camara:
The importances of being a Griot are endless.
Myself, I don’t what could be sweeter than being a Griot.
It doesn’t exist.

Tiécoro Sissoko:
Spoken (with Tiécoro humming and guitar playing in the background)
My name is Tiécoro
I was raised in our family and all my descendants are Griot.
I first moved here [Bamako] to learn guitar from my brother.
I came here in 1968.
That was the only reason I came here.
Three days after I arrived here, they bought me a guitar.
And I started learning on it.


[humming & guitar playing]

I’m part of it. I’m not part of it. **
I will agree to that, charming Griot.

If you miss him this year, you will not
see him until next year.

Everyone depends on their mother’s blessings.

Good afternoon, the greatest personality of the house.

Love someone who loves you.
Abandon someone who has no love for you.
Death can reach you anywhere you go.
Death can reach you anyplace you go in this world,
Allah is the highest.
Death can reach you while you are sick.

[humming & guitar playing]

You have to work for your name. You cannot force it.
Someone with a good reputation will never be equal to
someone with a bad one.
The deep darkness of Africa.

[humming & guitar playing]

Oh, that is true, life is a turn. ***
You have to enjoy life while you are living it...
because we will all die
one day like a light bulb going out.
and it doesn’t matter if you agree, it will
God forbid, God forbid, the day that He does it, who is going to ask Him why he did it?
If you are living you have to enjoy life until the end.
Before death reaches you.
If you agree or not, you cannot escape death.

[humming & guitar playing]
People who are doing good things, that’s what
will be said after you.
People who are doing bad things, that’s what
will be said after you.
People who are making the Griot happy, that’s what
will be said after you.
People who disrespect the Griot, that’s what
will be said after you.

Ignorance is darkness.
Don’t you see? Whatever you do,
after you are gone, it will be said.
Great personality of the house.
That is true. What you do, is what will be said
when you pass away.

This guy is good. This guy is bad.

Whatever you do in this life.
there is an importance to it.

If you cannot get a benefit from
anything, maybe you can get tired and quit.
Otherwise there is benefit in everything, good or bad.

[humming & guitar playing]

COMMENTS Tiécoro Sissoko [with Tiécoro humming and guitar playing in the background]
What my reflections give me is that...
the reason why music of
today’s youth is not progressing...
Is that they are not asking for guidance
from the elder musicians.

[song/spoken word continues]

I did not forget about the laughing girl.
I’ll see you in the morning and the charming Griot is living.

[End of song/spoken word]

COMMENTS - Tiécoro Sissoko
Ever since I started,
I have benefitted…
from being an artist.
Music is like any job, if you don’t learn it
you won’t do well.

end of comments
Video Producer's notes:
Tiécoro Sissoko died in May of 2012.
He was 66 years old.
For more information about Tiecoro and other KSK artists please visit
Editor's notes:
* No title was given to this song. I used the last words of this song/spoken word composition as its title. I have posted a comment on this video's viewer comment thread asking for the correct title. When I receive a response, I will change the title of this song/spoken word.

It seems to me that in the context of this song, the meaning of "charming" is probably "1. To attract or delight greatly" and not
2. To induce by using strong personal attractiveness" or
3. To cast or seem to cast a spell on; bewitch.
I think that the word "charming" as used in this song/spoken word may also mean "a person who has a way with words", a person who has a "smooth tongue". However, in the United States, a "charming" person may be viewed with suspicion. For instance, Americans may consider a man who is "turning on the charm" as doing so for some ulterior motive that benefits him and not anyone else. In the United States a smooth talker, or a charming man (or woman) might have elements of a "snake oil salesman"-"snake oil" being a general term for home made useless medicine. While Tiécoro Sissoko's use of the word "charming" probably carries the smooth talking description, it probably doesn't carry the negative "snake oil salesman" connotation.
It seems to me that this song/spoken word is composed of reflections and/or proverbs/folk sayings such as "Love someone who loves you", conversational lines such as "Good afternoon, the greatest personality of the house" and other comments such as "I’m part of it. I’m not part of it./ I will agree to that, charming Griot."
** My guess is that the line "I’m part of it. I’m not part of it" refers to Tiécoro Sissoko continuing the Griot traditions but accompanying himself with a guitar and not a kora.
*** Another way to say "life is a turn" might be “life is like a wheel turning”.

Thanks to Griots featured in this video. RIP Tiécoro Sissoko.
Thanks to the uploader of this video, ksksystemkrush.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. Hello Azizi! I have been following your blog "quietly", for about a month now. I am literally blown away by the vastness of information that you share in each thread. Every day I feel that I'm sitting at the feet of an ancient, wise griot and (s)he's reconnecting me to my ancestral continent and its hidden secrets.This blog is something else.

    I would also like to ask, even plead, (smile), that you return to the "other blog"---Ahem, that could truly benefit from your great insight and fantastic opinions on our global African Experiences. Please reconsider returning. You're needed! I believe that the "turbulence" encountered there has been stilled....

    Again, great job here @ Pancocojams!


    1. Greetings,John!

      I appreciate your compliment and comments, and accept them in the spirit in which I believe they were sent.

      But, I'm actually not a Griot, but I did stay at the Holiday Inn one time :o)

      I focus on topics as the Spirit moves me to do so. I happened upon this video of Tiécoro Sissoko because it was recommended for me on my YouTube home page because of other videos I had watched.

      I always wondered how a Griot's performance was/is like. I feel that Tiécoro's song/spoken word performance in that featured video answered that question.

      Also, if Tiécoro's style of singing merging with speaking while accompanying himself on a musical instrument is typical of old time Griots, and I think that's likely, then that performance demonstrates that the Griots were an important source of the United States' Talking Blues traditions.

    2. John,

      with regard to your comment about that other blog, I haven't stopped commenting there.

      With regard to that particular thread, I've been tempted to add another comment, but I've learned the hard way on another discussion forum that when I say that I won't respond to a commenter who I believe is trolling, I can't go back on my word.

      I very much appreciate your comments John and most other bloggers' comments on that thread and on that entire Afro-Europe blog. And again, I thank you for visiting and commenting on this pancocojams blog.

      Ase! (More power to you!)