Paper long abstract:
In many West African societies a wide range of musical activities are the exclusive domain of griots. Jaliyaa, the art of griots, includes praise-singing, playing stringed instruments, but also reciting epics and genealogies, and mediation. Aesthetic evaluations of griots' music is consequently linked to the wider social roles of griots and to their relationships with their respective patrons, but often explained in metaphors of the body. Since the 1950s griots developed a number of new musical styles that may qualify as popular music and were evaluated increasingly by their musical and entertainment qualities.
This paper will try to bring emic West African concepts of Jaliyaa into dialogue with Western discussions about the aesthetics of popular (and other) music. I will ask whether the concepts and problems these debates raise are useful in understanding the changing musical styles of griots - and discuss the advantages and risks of ignoring the socio-economic framework.
Crises, imagination, and beyond: bringing aesthetics back into the anthropology of (popular) music