Revered throughout history, poetry and prose hold an essential place in Muslim cultures. Innovative prose is celebrated today as it was in the past, with a cup of tea in hand and an ear to the nuanced sound of language.
Historically recited, sung, and discussed in tea houses, royal courts and drawing rooms, storytelling and recitation are still enjoyed in contemporary salons.
Asia Society has embraced the tea house experience with Chaikhana, with an opportunity to hear poems and stories on topics ranging from mystical love to social satire and commentary. The tea house of Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas opened with a celebration of African storytelling traditions. The evening began with a performance by Super Manden, led by lauded Mali-based singer Abdoulaye Diabate (dubbed the “African Troubador”) together with revered balafon player, Abou Sylla.
Super Manden celebrates the jaliya tradition-- the culture of storytelling from the Mandinka culture of West Africa, also known as a griot. Jaliya is the entire cultural practice of West Africa, encompassing oral tradition, music, dance, entertainment while also playing an important role in council and conflict resolution.
Since the time of great Empire of Mali, jalilu, the keepers of the jaliya tradition, have been important social figures, singing praises, keeping genealogical records and advising their patrons. Descendants of the jalilu have passed down the traditions of song, instrumental music, as well as the social roles of the past. Many of today’s top musicians and singers of Mali and Guinea share in this legacy.
Super Manden will be joined by Yacouba Sissoko, a master kora player from the Djely griot tradition. The performance was followed by an evening of tea and poetry from across the Muslim World.