Popular Artists Today

            Over the past several years, the style of Jeliya has grown a significant amount. There have been several popular artists, groups, and performers that love the art and still continue its traditions today. They could go from traveling to perform all over the world to teaching his styles to young minds. A few examples of popular groups or performers today are Froday Musa Suso, Alhaji Papa Susso, Balla Kouyate, and Alassane Sarr. These four men are only a small part of the list of Jeliya artists.

            Froday Musa Suso is a composer and musician from Gambia. He is apart of the African ethnic group, Mandinka, which is a group that descends from the Mali Empire. Suso prefers to play the Kora while playing, but also has tremendous skills with other instruments, such as the kalimba, kutiro, and the guitar. In the 1970s, Suso immigrated to Chicago, becoming one of the first jelis to relocate to North America. Suso has also performed all throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. He has toured and recorded with big names such as, Herbie Hancock, Philip Glass, Pharoah Sanders, and Ginger Baker. Another big accomplishment of Suso was the co-founder and leader of the fusion jazz band known as, The Mandingo Griot Society.  Froday Musa Suso has had an incredible musical career and still continues to tour all over the world.

Official Website:


           Alhaji Papa Susso is a musician and oral historian from Gambia. He is a kora player, and was taught by his father at the age of five, and travels all over the United States and Canada. For the majority of his time, he visits schools, universities, and cultural centers. Susso also comes from a long line of Griots of the Mandinka people, similar to Froday Musa Suso. Today, he is a goodwill ambassador that travels around North America to share his culture and the art of the kora. 


          Balla Kouyate is a balafon player from Mali, and is considered to be one of the greatest balafon players to ever come out of the “Griot” tradition in Mali. The family name, Kouyate, is a huge name regarding jelis of the Mande Empire, as they were the first of the empire. The balafon was given to Balla’s ancestors, and the instrument hasn’t left the family. He began playing the balafon at age six. Balla has performed in many places in Mali and has performed with many other popular artists such as, Sanignai Kouyate. By 1994, he became a member of the National Percussion of Mali. Three years later, he performed with Ami Koita at the O.I.A. conference, which brought together 27 African presidents. Today, he works with kora player, Mamadou Diabate.      

 Official Website : http://ballakouyate.com/ 

            Alassane Sarr is a jeli performer of dance and drumming. He comes from a griot family in Dakar, Senegal. He attended the School of Art in Dakar at age fifteen, and finished the courses at age 21. After going to school, he went on to join and perform for the Silimbo Dance Company of Dakar. In 1991, Silimbo dancers were hired to perform in the United States for Black History Month. After participating in this performance, his career blossomed in the United States as a teacher of his styles of dance and drumming. In addition to dance and drums, he also is a teacher of Senegalese history, drum-making, costume design, and a few others. Today, Sarr still continues to teach his style to all groups and ages.  


 Author: Jason Ben-Eliyahu

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