Diasporic jeliya as a collaborative trade in New York City

  • David Racanelli Dowling College


In Mali, Guinea, and Senegal, the term jeliya denotes the traditional art of praise singing as practiced by only male and female hereditary musicians (jeliw and jelimusow). The jeli or griot is a verbal artist whose profession or practice requires a specific set of oral skills. Instrumentalists accompany vocalists on hereditary instruments such as the balafon (xylophone) and kora (harp) and play a subordinate role to them. In New York City (hereafter referred to simply as New York), however, jeliya has become a collaborative trade with all participants - griot and non-griot - benefiting from their involvement. The practice of the jeli has evolved to include styles of presentation and performance that place a greater emphasis upon instrumental playing (foli) in order to make jeliya more accessible to non-griot musicians and audiences. Above all, like other west African hereditary migrant traders in New York, jeliw broker their art as a musical practice in order to reach new sources of patronage. For them, jeliya can be commodified in the form of CDs to be bought and sold or inspire various types of collaboration with non-griot musicians, while it retains its original meaning(s) and significance as a verbal art in traditional environments. As a collaborative trade, diasporic jeliya embodies varying degrees of innovation and hybridity, which emerge in several types of collaborative relationship and in various contexts.
How to Cite
Racanelli, D. “Diasporic Jeliya As a Collaborative Trade in New York City”. African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music, Vol. 9, no. 1, Nov. 2011, p. [136]-5, doi:https://doi.org/10.21504/amj.v9i1.1761.