Social History and Modern Status of the Jeli

The opinions of Jelis have recently come under fire in Western Africa/Mande areas. As keepers of tradition and the only members of society to be able to perform as they do, Jelis are often reimbursed on the spot for their work. This practice has come or can come under fire from locals, as they see this as largely unnecessary.

Resentment from other groups is a main reason for jelis being looked at in a negative light in modern times. Groups with higher status-such as the Horonnu- sometimes find wealth slower than the Jelis because of the traditional way in which they are reimbursed.

Similarly, Jeliya is the art of praising-through the use of both the Koran and praise of familial lineage and ancestry- can be construed in a non traditional sense and therefore seen as praise with the simple hope of being reimbursed. The art then loses its importance and is viewed as a cheap way to gain wealth.

 SOURCE: Eric Charry, Mande Music, Chapter 3. (ISBN 0-226-10162-2)

 Author: Terence Malangone

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