Unit 3: Music of Mali with Yacouba

Melody will take us on a journey from Hinesville, Georgia to the Savannah Airport to meet our next singer, Yacouba, who is travelling from his home in Manhattan, New York. Use SG18–20 to meet Yacouba and prepare your students to learn about the Music of Mali.

Genre Overview

For centuries, jelis—also called griots in French—have been the musical storytellers in West Africa, respected as keepers of history, interpreters of current events, advisers to rulers, and connectors of social groups and families. Yacouba Sissoko was born in Kita, Mali to a well-known jeli family; his grandparents, mother, siblings, and many of his cousins are all jelis.

Yacouba started learning the kora and the oral traditions associated with it from his grandfather at the age of nine. When he was 13, he moved to the capital city of Bamako. He eventually went on to attend the National Institute of the Arts. In Bamako, he captured the attention of the music world and began touring with noted international African artists. In 1998, he settled in the US, sharing the music and culture of his ancestors while also learning from the many cultures and styles of music he encountered here, developing his own singular style.


Teacher Resources


Listening and Viewing:

Additional Teaching Resources:


PDF Downloads

SG18 ↓ Download File

SG19 ↓ Download File

SG20 ↓ Download File


Go to Lesson 1: Learning “Kelefaba”