Djeliba Badje


Bouba Ardo Galo



Djeliba Baje interview

Alou interview

Djeliba Badje, or officially, Djibo Badje, is the last of the great Zarma griots, even though a few in a newer generation strive to become master griots too. As Djeliba’s role was to inherit, his first apprenticeship was to his father, himself a master griot that had also learned from the rich Malian traditions on study trips. Djeliba in his turn also travelled to Mali and developed his own voice while accompanying himself on the mollo (tree-string lute).

After LP records brought recordings to Niger, cassette tapes were the first medium available for recording and the major means through which the music was shared from the late 80’s, to the 90’s, and up until 2010. Epic tales of heroes and war legends could be heard on long radio broadcasts of legends and longer 90-minute tapes that could usually hold the length of most of the legend.

Before, radio was the only way it was possible to hear an uninterrupted version. Cassette tapes were the only means to own your own copy but it also results in cutting in order to change sides. Cassettes tapes and the radio became the major way most people were able to gain multiple listens of legends like these to fully learn and follow all the intricate linguistic elements found in the long tale. However, now, new media allows for lengthy uninterrupted recordings.

For this performance, Djeliba requested to go to his garden on the outskirts of town in Niamey. Performing a good portion of the epic for Bouba Ardo Gado, we get a clear example of the pace and stylistic storytelling skill master griots demonstrate. He followed another short example from the legend Bawdi, an interesting animal character, in a fable-like tale.

This performance, in his personal peaceful place, with the sounds of nature growing as the sky gets darker blue, Djeliba tells fragments, like reflections, on various different legends, to present the diversity of rhythms and styles. Djeliba shares his reflections with us as he interjects things like “holy cow!” when the lute playing excites him, or as he remembers traits of the hero in the story, as if remembering an old friend. Djeliba has no one that will inherit his epics.

Djeliba is known for his deep, slow voice that assures everyone hears every word and understands each of the phrases and descriptive embellishments that color his legends. The last of his generation of griots, Djeliba Badje spent decades learning epic legends of warriors and important historical individuals. Reciting these legends takes more than an hour from start to finish and a griot manages many legends in their mind, serving as true oral archives.

In one of the griot’s roles, that of oral historian, Djeliba’s ability to recite a multitude of ancestral lineages allowed him to serve in a wide range of chief enthronizations as well. Part of the ceremony is listening to the lineage’s predecessors. Many claim listening to ancestral recitation can have the impact of making a person physically tremble from the force of ancestral reputation and the emotional power of the griot’s performance.

Accompanying him on mollo is the legendary Alou Mollo who has played with the great griots of the past, including the other legendary Zarma griot, Diadou Sekou. It is interesting that Alou is a Hausa, yet known for his long history with Zarma griots.

  • Djeliba Badje – griot
  • Alou – mollo (three-string lute)
  1. Bouba Ardo Galo excerpt – 30:51
  2. Bawdi – 12:50
  3. medley of recollections (Dondu Garba Dicko, Bakari Dia, Gakoy, Tcham) – 15:05
  4. Djeliba Baje interview – 15:39
  5. Alou interview – 4:45
  • Ethnic Group: Zarma
  • Language (dialect): Zarma (Zarma-Tarey)
  • Country: Niger
  • Recording date: September 6, 2015
  • Recording location:
    Fada Lougbatou Gorou Kaaley Do, Niamey, Niger
  • Total Recording time: 1h 19:10
  • Technician: Brian Nowak
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