The elders of the ancient Mandinka African griot culture are dying and taking with them the kora music and songs that contain a very deep history or narration of important events that took place in the history of the griot empire.
The Mandinka African griots are the musicians/oral historians/story tellers/mediators/entertainers/praise singers of West Africa, their traditional musical instrument being the kora - a 21 stringed instrument which is their version of our harp mostly played by the Mandinka griot. This musical culture is passed down from generation to generation in an oral tradition. Due to Westernisation, colonialism, modern technology etc. this culture is dying out. The youngsters today want to learn more modern music resulting in the old traditional songs that are an important part of the griot's ancestral legacy being forgotten. The griot's are the guardians and custodians of their culture and tradition. They bring people together, used to serve in the palaces of the kings and were advisors and councillors to the kings.
Bunja Conteh was born into the ancient Mandinka African griot culture. He's a kora player, kora maker and oral historian. Bunja also teaches kora and oral history at The Konteh Kunda School of Music based in Brikama, The Gambia where he lives. The school was founded in 2013 the goal being to preserve Mandinka music and culture. The school encourages apprenticeship among griots creating an audio library of the local songs and stories and encourages foreign students to come and study. Bunja is the grandson of the famous Alhagie Bai Konte who was one of the first kora players to travel to America in the 1970's, was also an oral historian and played kora for Gambia radio in the early 1960's to 1980's.
Bunja has been doing his research for some time but wants to continue with it and complete it in order to preserve the knowledge and history of this ancient culture. He has already learnt many of the traditional kora songs that contain the history of the griots and has interviewed many elder griots. He now wants to continue his research, complete it and then publish a book to write something for future generations to trace their lost and missing identity in this world. In order to do this he has to travel to three different countries The Provences in Gambia, Cassamance in Senegal and Guinea Bissau, he will have to stay there for a while to continue interviewing the elder griots, get photos of historical sights and continue learning their traditional songs on the kora. When his research is completed he wants to get all his notes that are in Mandinka translated in to English, edited and eventually get a book published (and possibly a cd of the kora music and songs) entitled The History of the Griot Culture and The Birth of the Kora that I'm sure will be of interest to many musicologists, historians and the general public. So this is what the funding is for.