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Wed Mar 6, 2019, 08:28 PM

New play 'American Griot' explores blues music's Muslim and African roots

From the article:

The history of music begins in 17th-century Germany with Bach.
Or at least that’s how Ronnie Malley remembers it being taught in school.
“Something that was embedded in my mind from schooling was that Western music was the pinnacle of all music,” said Malley, a Palestinian-American Muslim living in Chicago. “And that was difficult for me to digest. Because, well, music has been around for a very long time.”

But as the actor and music teacher studied the history of European music in his spare time, he became interested in the influence of Muslim rule in Spain on classical music. This led to his reading about the African predecessors of some modern Western instruments. Then, one day about five years ago, Malley stumbled across some research that traced the roots of American blues music back to West African Muslim slaves.
His discovery led Malley to imagine a musical play that explored the shared history of Islam, Africa, slavery and blues music through the eyes of Mamadou, a fictional 18th-century Muslim “griot,” or storyteller musician, who has been sold into slavery....

In her 1998 book “Servants of Allah,” historian Sylviane Diouf, whose work inspired Malley, introduced the now-popular idea that the style of the field holler, an early building block of the blues, evolved from West African Muslims’ melodic recitation of the Quran and, particularly, the vocal call to prayer.

To read more:


History, as we all know, is written by the rich. And in the history of US slavery, the fact that a large number of African slaves were Muslims is never mentioned.

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