Movin’ Legacy! Preservation The GRIOT Project

A Griot is the French term for a West African oral historian/genealogist and storyteller.  The Griot (called Jeli in Mandinka), though fulfilling his/her duties without the aid of pen and paper, is able to recite particular lineages, replete with stories, songs, dances and moral lessons for as far back as 150 generations or older.  In the tradition of these West African knowledge-custodians, the GRIOT project (Genealogical Research In Omni-Atlantic Traditions) will serve as a reservoir of knowledge about music and dance of African-descended peoples in the entire omni-Atlantic region.   Like the traditional Griots who used song, dance and even dramatic performances to preserve and perpetuate knowledge, the GRIOT project intends to be a multi-media experience, using visual and sound recordings of various interviews, performances, classes, ceremonies, rituals, etc.


(1) The Interview Archive: This component of the project will entail the production of an archive of interviews of pioneering dance and musical artists of African descent throughout the world.  These interviews will be conducted by a team of skilled ethnographers and linguists using high-tech audio-visual equipment in order to ensure high quality and longevity.  This same team of specialists will transcribe these interviews as text versions.

(2) The Performance Archive:  The ethnographers and linguists engaged for the Interview Archive the same team of ethnographers and linguists will oversea the visual documentation of various modes of dance/musical activity, ranging from the concerts, shows and classes to religious and secular rituals and ceremonies.

(3) The Genealogy:  We will construct a genealogy of dance and musical forms in the African Diaspora.  The music and dance of Africa has taken root and transformed in very complex ways depending upon the specific social, political and ecological environments to which they traveled.  To date, no comprehensive genealogy of these travels and transformations has been compiled.

(4) The final objective for the GRIOT project will be to ensure that this information is vastly and properly disseminated.  We will work in alliance with a few archive and research institutions to facilitate the completion of this important goal. The Schomburg Center for African and African American Research, the Lincoln Center Dance Archive, the UCLA Center for African and African American Research, the University of Texas, Austin’s program in Anthropology of the African Diaspora are among the organizations that will be enlisted for this project.

The Archive

The Archive is a literary publication, accompanied by an interactive DVD, that will compile information collected from the GRIOT Project for public consumption. The Archive will be made available for purchase to the participants of The Movin’ Legacy Festival. Further, it is intended for The Archive to be utilized by teachers and professors of students from kindergarten through university level to perpetuate a proper understanding of arts forms from the African Diaspora.