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In Griot Time: An American Guitarist in Mali Paperback – 14 Feb 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; New Ed edition (14 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185242690X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852426903
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,279,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


?Banning?s book presents a riveting, richly illustrative and insightful look into his extraordinary seven month?s journey deep into the heart of Mali?s music scene...With the explosion and popularity and appetite for world music, Banning?s book is one of a kind primer on just how deep the connection runs between West African cultural traditions and nearly all of our Western popular music. I can?t remember when a Westerner has been able to dive so deeply into another culture with such soulful results? Bonnie Raitt ?One of the best can?t -put-it-down roots music reads in recent memory? Folk Roots ?An essential and extraordinary read for anyone interested in Africa and world music? World Music

About the Author

Professional guitar player and international music journalist for the Boston Phoenix and National Public Radio's All Things Considered, Banning Eyre contributes regularly to Billboard, Ms, Rhythm, the Beat, and New Music Monthly. He has travelled extensively in Africa and has produced many programs for the public radio series Afropop Worlwide. In 1995, Eyre co-authored AFROPOP! An Illustrated Guide to Contemporary African Music with Sean Barlow. He is currently Senior Editor for Africa at www.afropop.org.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
From seedy nightclubs to TV broadcasting houses, people's homes to the haunts of government, Eyre narrates his epic seven-month journey into Malian life with candour and intelligence, affording the reader a rare insight into the realities, politics, and experiences of learning under and alongside the Griot master Djelimady Tounkara. The narrative begins with the guitarist's preparations in America and, through historical and personal anecdotes, recollections, quotations and analysis paints a picture of both his personal journey and the Malian world in which he finds himself. It does not set out to be a densely academic piece of ethnographic literature, but instead strikes one as part travelogue, part reflexive ethnography. The accounts he gives of those he meets describe both the personal and on the socially dictated nature of their interactions, offering a level of description that conjures life in Bamako in vivid colour.
The tone of the book strikes one as reminiscent of the journalistic voice the author employed in the past during his work for magazines and papers, the mix of anecdote and more academic material tightly woven together such as to make it irresistible to a non-academic readership. This, however, belies the truly remarkable ethnographical value of the material. In all the tales and accounts, the attention to detail- the head gasket being blown on the Nissan, the food the women prepare after the windfall of Babani's visit, even the "scratching whiskers" of a stranger in a bar- amounts to an incredible wealth of insight into the transition between tradition and modernity, changing priorities and a myriad more issues.
In chapter ten, we are introduced to Sali Sidibe', "the Black Pearl of Wassoulou," with whom the author works for a period during his teacher's absence.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake up and hear the music! 11 July 2000
By Henry and Angeline Rhett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Banning Eyre has obviously spent a great deal of time loving and learning the music and culture of Mali. His book takes you straight to the heart of what the people and their music are all about. Effortlessly, he guides you on an excursion to this unique land. You'll taste the food, feel the heat and hear the music! In fact, you can hear the music in the companion CD. I love both the book and the CD!
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars V.S. Naipaul fans: you will love this book! 23 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"In Griot Time" is a MAJOR travel literature event! Readers of V. S. Naipaul's travel nonfiction will delight in this new book written by a former student of Naipaul, Banning Eyre of National Public Radio and Boston Phoenix fame. This astonishingly good book rivals and even surpasses Naipaul in the very areas Naipaul excels. Eyre's writing recalls Naipaul's best, with a fresh new vibrance, mature with a quiet, intelligent masculinity, reflecting Eyre's years of magazine and newspaper work. The Canadian Eyre masterfully takes the best of his teacher's legacy, then expands it, using his relative youth and considerable musical and literary skills to show us a fascinating view of travel and Malian culture not just as a writer, as an outsider, but also as a working musician and student of Malian styles, a view requiring a stamina and persona more reminiscent of Hemingway than Naipaul. Eyre is truly an exciting and important new voice in travel literature. NOT TO BE MISSED. I've read and loved all of Naipaul's books--and "In Griot Time" is even better if such a thing is possible! Thank you, Banning Eyre! [Note: I'm an old friend of the author, and have read his writing from his early teenage days on. He was good to begin with, and I've watched him get better and better over the years. I'm also a long-time fan of V.S. Naipaul's works and consider him one of the great masters of 20th-century literature. Imagine my utter joy when I read "In Griot Time," and found Eyre has grown into everything Naipaul is and more! Now I can say "I knew him when..." :)]
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars musical biography/ travel writing at its best 13 Aug. 2007
By Robert Reid - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Due to the low profile of African music in the States, this subject matter is so esoteric that any work on the subject would certainly be welcome. But thankfully, this is the work of a seasoned music journalist, whose charisma opens nearly every possible door to the life of Mali's great musicians. The book starts as Eyre shows up unannounced to meet Djelimady Tounkara, perhaps Mali's greatest living griot artists. As Eyre is taken under Djelimady's wing as an understudy, he finds opportunities to meet other great and colorful elements in Mali's music world, including a musician who shunned his royal upbringing to a humble music life (Salif Keita), and a mysterious millionaire patron of the arts who worked his way up from humble roots (Babani Sissoko).

Throughout his study, Eyre remains humble, admitting that there is a whole host of young musicians in Mali half his age more advanced than he in this study. At one point he likens studying with Djelimady to "reaching into a rushing stream of water hoping to pull out a fish before it slithered away forever." Though Eyre is upfront about his preference to study music "stripped of its context," he doesn't skimp on highlighting the importance of politics, religion, and history surrounding the music.

His approach to viewing Africa is refreshing; where international aid workers "looked around and saw sickness and suffering, good people held down by backwardness... I looked around and saw a cultural lodestone, musical diamonds and gold everywhere. I wanted the Malians to give me the hard lessons." It's hard not to agree with Eyre's perception of Mali's musical greatness; in fact, in the `60s and `70s, the government mandated that the bands they subsidized all maintain deep roots to Malian tradition- unlike many other African countries, whose musical identities have been whitewashed by Western influences.

Of course I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in studying African music, but it should also be compelling for anyone interested in a "cultural exchange" with the remote and exotic city of Bamako, Mali, which happens to not be all that far from Timbuktu.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I had to get this for a class 28 Mar. 2013
By Daniel Canham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book for a class project, so I wasn't very invested in the material to begin with. But after getting through the first few chapters, Eyre's style grew on me. He's an intelligent, detail-oriented writer that covers quite a lot of information in this travel-memoir. I would suggest reading Griots and Griottes by Thomas Hale as a supplement if you're trying to understand some of the nuances of West African culture because Eyre glosses over a lot of the cultural significance of the praise singers to focus exclusively on the music, but that's my only complaint.
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