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4. YouTube in Academic Teaching: A Multimedia Documentation of Siramori Diabaté’s Song “Nanyuman”

Brahima Camara, Graeme Counsel and Jan Jansen

© 2017 B. Camara, G. Counsel and J. Jansen, CC BY 4.0


This chapter expands the documentation of a video recording of the song “Nanyuman” by Mali’s legendary female bard Siramori [Sira Mory] Diabaté (ca. 1925–1989). This unique recording was recently collected in the archives of Radio Télévision Guinéenne (RTG), and was then made available on YouTube. This paper adds a transcription and translation to Siramori’s version of “Nanyuman”, and this enhancing of the YouTube video is an attempt to produce a teaching tool.1

This contribution firstly describes an archival quest in the Guinean sound archives and the unexpected find of a Siramori recording. It then presents a methodological and ethical reflection on the process of archiving and making the recording accessible on YouTube, with further considerations given to academic publications of the recording, thus creating a multimedia supported documentation. Central to this paper is the song text of “Nanyuman”, with the text from the example found in the RTG archives presented alongside another interpretation of the same song by Siramori. Thus, the textual dynamics of Siramori’s performance are displayed and a clear impression of her artistry is presented.

Some Unexpected Finds at a Guinean Archive

From 2008–2013, Graeme Counsel undertook an audio project at the Radio Télévision Guinée (RTG) for which he archived, digitized and preserved audio materials from Guinea’s Syliphone recording label in addition to audio materials recorded on reel-to-reel magnetic tape.2 With the death of Guinea’s first president Sékou Touré in 1984, Guinea entered a long period of military rule under President Lansané Conté (1984–2008). The revolutionary arts policies of the Touré era (1958–1984), which led to state sponsorship of musicians and orchestras, were abandoned, and the archives, which contained over 10,000 songs, were left in neglect (Counsel 2015). The Conté regime gave scant attention to culture, and less so to reviving memories of Sékou Touré. For several decades, most of the music in the archives was never broadcast on radio or television, and thus the cultural memory of the Touré years was all but erased.

During the project of archiving the thousands of songs on magnetic tape, Counsel commenced researching RTG’s video archive, which, although outside the parameters of his project, sat adjacent to the audio archive and contained hundreds of hours of recordings of music. A first find Counsel made was a recording of Kouyaté Sory Kandia (1933–1977), one of Guinea’s most acclaimed artists.3 Dr. Iffono, a former Guinean Ministère de la Culture, des Arts et Loisirs, had told him that, when he was minister, he had been searching for the only video recording of Kouyaté Sory Kandia that was believed to exist. The minister informed him that he had in fact traveled overseas to Ghana looking for it, and had considered traveling to Algeria.4 When Counsel was searching in the RTG’s Conakry archives, he discovered a video cassette of Kouyaté Sory Kandia amongst a pile of other videos. The RTG’s U-matic video machine was barely working but he asked, unofficially, for a copy of the recording, which he gave to the former minister. One of the reasons for the minister’s long and fruitless search is that the Ministry of Communication has jurisdiction over the RTG archive, and in Guinea, collaboration and communication between ministries is generally weak.

After finding the Kouyaté Sory Kandia recording, Counsel searched for more videos. His endeavors, however, were brought to a close when the U-matic video machine ceased to function. Nevertheless, through unofficial channels, he had secured several examples of rare and previously unknown videos of Guinean musicians and groups.

The RTG archive appeared to also hold some videos by Malian artists recorded by the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision du Mali (ORTM). On one of these video cassettes, Counsel noticed Ali Farka Touré’s name, and the Siramori track presented in this article is the first track on that video cassette. Since Siramori Diabaté is a Maninka (Malinké) from the town of Kangaba, close to the Guinean frontier, she was popular in both Mali and Guinea, which explains the presence of an ORTM video in the RTG archives.5

From Archive to YouTube-Supported Teaching Tool

After archiving and digitizing the video material from the RTG archives, Counsel made it available on YouTube on his Radio Africa channel.6 Though not part of his archiving project, he deemed the material too important to not share with the wider community. When Counsel completed the archiving project the Guinean government celebrated it through a soirée held at La Paillote, a music venue which dates to the early days of Guinean independence. The event was broadcasted live on radio, attended by the minister for Culture, civil servants, and musicians, while the prime minister sent his congratulations. The legendary Les Amazones de Guinée gave a powerful performance,7 and Radio Africa and its YouTube videos were welcomed as additions to the body of research on Guinean music and culture.

At that time, Counsel informed Jansen about the Siramori Diabaté recording available on YouTube, since it is the only known video of one of West Africa’s most important artists.8 Counsel knew about Jansen’s ethnographic work on Siramori and her family, the renowned bards (“griots”) of Kela (cf. Charry 2000; Simonis 2015), and his efforts to publish text editions of their narratives and songs (Jansen 1996, 2012; Siramori Diabaté). Jansen then proposed — not surprisingly, considering his previous work — to publish the text of the Siramori song in order to broaden its audience and contribute to a better appreciation and understanding of the Maninka griots’ artistry. The desired result would be a multimedia teaching tool that enhanced the YouTube video with a text edition of the performance. Jansen also proposed that Counsel invite the linguist Brahima Camara, with whom he had previously published song texts by Siramori Diabaté (Camara and Jansen 2013). Counsel accepted. Thus, three authors have contributed to this chapter.

For Counsel, this chapter has come about as a result of the impact of his Radio Africa project. Informing Jansen about the recording was a collegial act, rather than a strategic move to commercialize the recording of “Nanyuman”. This chapter seeks to make a strategic statement about the resulting product: a YouTube-supported teaching tool that integrates an artist’s lyrics and which is published as a scholarly article.

During the writing process for this teaching tool, it became increasingly apparent that digital archives, and YouTube in particular, pose a great challenge to academics of many disciplinary backgrounds as they seek to have their documents enhanced by transcription and translation, or by other forms of analysis. A YouTube recording, whether it is part of a collection, a (professional) video-clip, or an individual recording, can be a fruitful source for both research and teaching in academic courses on African literature, gender studies, comparative literature, popular culture, oral tradition, history, material culture, etc. In particular, when enhanced by a transcription and a translation, we see many opportunities for YouTube recordings in the classroom. We hope that the present text inspires scholars to integrate video recordings from archives and new and social media into their teachings.

At the same time, however, we feel our enthusiasm tempered by concerns of authorship and acknowledgment. We are cognizant of deliberations regarding “standard” situations of collecting oral material and returning it later (digitally) to the creators (see Merolla, this volume: 5; see Shetler, this volume: 23). The situation of the Siramori song, however, is complex. None of the authors may derive claims or rights from having been involved in the original recordings as the song resides within an oral tradition shared by many Mandé performers. Future researchers of African heritage may find themselves in similar positions as we find ourselves vis-à-vis Siramori’s “Nanyuman”. Therefore we amply discuss our deliberations during the preparation of the teaching tool.

Some Methodological and Ethical Reflections

We are indebted to Siramori Diabaté in particular and to the Kela griots in general. We acknowledge their art and profession, while also acknowledging ethical and legal issues at stake. Ethically speaking, issues of transparency and accountancy need clear elaboration. While writing this article, Counsel deliberated whether he should reveal to the RTG staff the source of the video, since they were oblivious to its existence — it being but one video from Mali amongst thousands of others from Guinea. Doing so would reveal how Counsel acquired copies of the videos: not through formal channels, but through informal processes. Many senior Guinean government representatives and artists were cognizant of how Counsel obtained the video, and considered the methods a better option than the former practice of neglecting the nation’s unique cultural materials by keeping them hidden from public view for decades, where they slowly disintegrated through a lack of preservation.9 These government representatives and prominent musicians in Guinea were his moral community and he made the recording freely available for scholarly and research purposes via YouTube, recognizing its value as the only known video of Siramori.

In documenting intangible heritage, such as through this discussion of the video of “Nanyuman”, the authors’ motivations are borne from the “Nanyuman” video’s unique qualities and a desire to share these with the wider community. In pursuance of this, however, there are further ethical issues to consider which are complicated by the process of documenting intangible heritage through digital media. Principal among these are legalities concerning copyright. In the case of Siramori’s “Nanyuman” it is impossible to determine whether the composition is traditional10 or the artist’s personal composition/interpretation. In a shared oral tradition such as that of the Maninka griots to which Siramori belongs, where songs are passed from one generation to another with and without the performer’s own embellishments, ownership of songs is far from clearly established. Thus, questions such as who holds the copyrights — the performer, her inheritors, the griots from the village of Kela (where Siramori grew up and received her artistic training), the ORTM, YouTube, or a combination of these stakeholders — is a near impossible matter to resolve. It is further complicated as to whether the copyrighted material pertains to the lyrics, the video recording, the performance, or combinations of all three. In this regard, YouTube suggests consulting the advice of an attorney, and while such a process would provide a legal framework that assures the right of the individual,11 it circumvents the politicized reality of a heritage’s multi-layered and often situational ownership, as well as issues of temporality. On the other hand, we foresee the impossibility of casting a representative community as the copyrights’ stakeholder.12

We are therefore caught between our ideals to preserve and document oral tradition and the temptation to focus on the end product, thus performing an “idealization” of our research and concealing what Goffman refers to as “the dirty work” (Goffman 1990 [1959]: 89). Given that there are no strong local and national organizations or legislatures to claim and protect intangible heritage in Mali and in Guinea, we can present our work as meeting the ideal of documentation through our efforts at saving, translating and teaching “Nanyuman”. We acknowledge that our ideals to preserve cultural documents by transferring them through new, access-free media to a wide variety of audiences are inspired by an ideology of “web democracy”, which is an ideology of an alleged open society that is, in practice, accessible only to an elite, although we are happy to see that this elite is growing fast in number thanks to, on the one hand, the spread of mobile phones worldwide and, on the other hand, to apps like Worldreader's and projects like Open Book Publishers and other Open Access initiatives. We apologize for creating this limited access to Siramori’s heritage and, at the same time, we hope that Siramori’s artfulness in the format of an academic text will enrich scholarship and research. Further, had Siramori been alive today, we feel that she would either consider this paper as being a respectful account of (her) intangible heritage or would treat us with the same understanding given to her heroine, the runaway Nanyuman, by her first husband.

Siramori Diabaté and “Nanyuman”

Siramori’s career is firmly based within the heritage of the famous griots of Kela (Jansen 1996). Born in ca. 1925, she was among the first wave of female artists who conquered Mali and Guinea’s male dominated music scene in the 1970s, a process described in detail by Lucy Durán (2007). As Durán explains, the introduction of the microphone to a large extent led to the emancipation of the female voice. This new technology neutralized the decibel advantage that male voices traditionally had over female voices — a situation that for centuries often limited women to background chorus singers.

Siramori declared that “Nanyuman” is her favorite song (Hale and Sidikou 2012: 147; Sòròfè [n.d.], end of Side A). Her interpretations indeed show that she was able to produce entertaining variations, undoubtedly adapted to the audiences she had in mind or was performing for. The interpretation available on YouTube via Radio Africa is a live recording, in which the audience is highly amused by the dialogues between Nanyuman and the traveling kola nut merchant who seduces her.13

For comparison, a second interpretation is included here which augments the lyrics in the video recording. This version was performed by Siramori for Mali’s national radio, probably in the 1960s or 1970s. In this alternate version she evokes a sorority with the adult women of Mali by emphasizing marital values and elaborating less on the domestic scenes and conversations. Originally, Brahima Camara knew this song as a recording by Radio Mali. He purchased a copy in the 1990s at the central market in Bamako from, what he calls, “un revendeur”. As in the YouTube case, it is unclear who has rights over Siramori’s performance/artistic production.


Siramori Diabaté has become one of the best documented female voices of West Africa. The discussion of Siramori’s interpretations in Women’s Voices from West Africa volumes 1 and 2, published by Sidikou and Hale (2012) and Hale and Sidikou (2013), very much illustrates her presence and influence in West Africa.14 This current text underscores these earlier publications by providing further examples of her artfulness.

Issues also raised in this paper concern the authors’ position as scholars when using Siramori’s song book. We have noted ethical and legal issues, and we contend that the use of Siramori’s songbook is inevitable and necessary to explain her artfulness to fellow scholars and students. We signaled a form of appropriation by us, the authors, from which the local artists do not and cannot profit. This painful observation is, it appears, an inevitable fact for researchers who document, preserve and use recordings of oral performances.

Fig. 4.1 Screenshot from the recording of Siramori’s “Nanyuman”. A transcription of the lyrics is presented below. Watch this performance on YouTube at

Nanyuman” by Siramori Diabaté

15 kiri ni wɔyɔ.

… confusion and discord.

Fufunintiki di n nεnε, Kanja Burema.

Kanja Burema, it’s the carrier of the little basket who deceived me.

Aaa, n ko wadi le nɔɔ, Kanja Burema.

Oh! Kanja Burema, it’s the carrier.

Aaa! Fufunintiki di n nεnε Kanja Burema.

Kanja Burema, it’s the carrier of the little basket who deceived me.

Ayiwa n badennu!

Yes, dear audience!

Ne Siramori Jabate kan ye nin di.

It’s me, Siramori Diabaté, speaking.

N ye min fɔla nin, n yεdε sɔn lee.

The story I tell here is of my own failings.

N t’a fɔla aw kelen ma dε mosolu,

Women! My story is not directed at you alone,

N yεdε sɔn lee.

because it’s also of my own failings.

Fɔlɔ ngaralu

The famous griots of the past

Oyi ye nin fɔ fɔlɔ mosoyi ye,

have told this story to the women of their time,

Oyi da fudu bato.

and they remained faithful to their marriages.

Ne fεnε y’a yida.

It’s my turn to tell.

Mali mosolu, n y’a yida ayi la dε

Women of Mali, it’s my turn to tell [it to] you,

Ayi fεnε ka fudu bato.

so that you remain faithful to your marriage.

Nanyuman, fin t’a n’a kε tε.

Nanyuman had no problem with her husband.

Fɔlɔmɔkɔlu le tun b’a kε -

In the past people did as follows -

Nεkεsoko tele tε, motoko tele tε,

when there was no bicycle or moped,

Ka worofufunin ta.

people wore small baskets of kola nuts.

N’ayi da woropanyε ta, ayi bε dɔ bɔ o dala

When buying a big basket of kola nuts, they put some of them

K’o kε fufunin dɔ, k’o l’i kun, ka wa duku ni duku.

in a smaller basket which they carried on their head from village to village.

Fufunintiki nada jiki Kanja Bureme kan.

A carrier of a little basket came to Kanja Burema’s home.

A ko Kanja Burema, i tε hina n na,

“Kanja Burema!” he said. “Have pity on me,

N kε tele fila nin kε i fε yan.

so I can stay few days here at your home.

N bε n yaara bukudabolo ninnu na,

I’m going to walk to the neighbouring villages,

Ka n ya woro yaara.

to sell my kola nuts.”

Kanja Burema ko, o tε baasi di.

Kanja Burema replied, “That’s no problem.”

Nanyuman! Dεbεn ta i k’a la bolon kɔnɔ.

“Nanyuman!” [he called], “Go and put the sleeping mat on the floor of the entrance hut.16

Jula le bεnni bolon kɔnɔ.

Because a traveling merchant likes an entrance hut.”

Nanyuman da bolon fida,

Nanyuman swept inside the entrance hut,

Ka dεbεn ta, k’a la fufunintiki nya.

then took a mat and spread it out for the carrier of the little basket.

A tanbeda sakuma, ka wa a ya fεnnu feere

In the morning, he went to sell his produce

A nada wura la.

and he returned in the evening.

A talada i kɔ, o dukusagwε, ka wa a ya fεnnu feere

The next day he went again to sell his produce

A nada wura la.

and returned in the evening.

Kanja Burema wad’a ya daba l’i kanna

At the same time, Kanja Burema put his hoe on his shoulder

Ka tanbe ka wa fodo dɔ.

and went to the field.

Nanyuman wilida telekunna dɔ

Nanyuman rose in the early afternoon

Ka wa don fufunintiki kan.

and joined the carrier of a little basket.

Fufunintiki ko, eh Nanyuman!

The carrier of the little basket exclaimed “Eh Nanyuman!

I nalen n badola wa?

Did you come to talk to me?”

Ɔɔhɔ, n nalen i bado la bi sa n fa.

“Yes, sir, finally, I came today to talk with you.”

A ko Nanyuman!

“Nanyuman!” he continued,

I tε woro dɔ ta!

“Have a kola nut!”

Nanyuman ye woro ta.

Nanyuman took the kola nut.

Ee, mosolu! Lahawutani, walakuwata! An ka siran!

Hey, women! How can this be possible! We should be in fear [of punishment]!

Nanyuman ye woro wo ta, a y’o nyimi.

Nanyuman took the kola nut and chewed it.

A ko: Nanyuman!

He said to her: “Nanyuman!

A ko: e moso nyumanba nin!

You are a very beautiful17 woman!

A ko: i dɔnɔkɔnya dɔgwε kε!

But it looks like you are deprived!

Ne natuma ni kelen ni sisan tε, jurukenin kelen nin le y’i kanna.

Since I’ve been here, you’ve worn only one blouse.

Ne ma juruke gwεdε y’i kanna.

I’ve not seen you wear another.”

A ko: Aaa nfa! Nayi ye an ta lanɔkɔ nin le dɔ yan.

She replied: “Oh, sir! We live in misery here.”

A ko: Nanyuman!

“Nanyuman!” he replied.

N’i kεda ne fε,

“If you love me,

Ni sanu don, n b’o d’i ma.

if it is gold, I’ll give it to you.

Ni wadi don, n b’o d’i ma,

If it is money, I’ll give it to you.

Ni fani n[y]uman don, n b’o d’i ma.

If it is beautiful clothes, I’ll give it you.”

A ko: Aaa n fa!

“Ah, sir!” replied Nanyuman,

N’i kεda kε n fε, n fana y’i fε wala.

“If you love me, I love you too.”

A ko: Ayiwa Nanyuman!

“Okay!” he continued.

N’i kε nada bi, n bε n sara ko n bε wa so sa.

“When your husband returns from the field, I will say my farewells to him.

Sini sakuma, n bε n bolofinnu ta, n bε wa.

And I will pick up my things to leave tomorrow morning.

Ayiwa Nanyuman!

So, Nanyuman!

Ayi ya kuruninkun min ye yen,

At the little plateaux, yonder,

N bε wa n siki yen, k’i makɔnɔ.

I’ll sit and wait for you.

I ka wa n sɔdɔ yen.

You and I will meet there.”

A ko: Wa! N y’i kɔ.

“Okay, I will join you”, said Nanyuman.

Kε wo d’i siki kuruninkun dɔ.

The man went and sat down at the plateaux.

Ee Mosolu!

Oh women!

Nanyuman nada, k’a bolofεnnu fara nyɔkɔn ma,

Nanyuman picked up her belongings,

K’a ya sokɔnɔla fida, k’a hεεn.

swept her room, and took off.

Kɔsɔkɔsɔ kɔsɔkɔsɔ!18

Zjouf zjouf!

Nanyuman wada o kε kɔ.

Nanyuman had run off with the man.

(… [after some time]…)

Ka kε wo ya sanu ban,

The man’s gold was exhausted,

K’a ya wadi ban.

his money was gone.

A ko: Nanyuman! Kabini n d’i fudu, fεn wo fεn tεlε n bolo, a bεε banni.

He said: “Nanyuman since I married you, all my wealth has vanished.

N t’i fε bi, n t’i fε sini, n t’i fε sinikεndε.

I don’t love you anymore. Not today, tomorrow, or the day after.”

Nanyuman! Nanyuman ye duku min dɔ

Nanyuman! He left the village where he lived with Nanyuman

Kε d’o duku bila, ka wa duku gwεdε dɔ.

to settle in another village.

O tuma Kanja Burema ko.

Kanja Burema received word.

Ko ne ni n moso ma kεlε,

“I did not quarrel with my wife,

Fin tε an ni nyɔkɔn tε, gwε tε an tε.

so there is no problem between us.

Ne moso wo ka tunun, ne t’o nyini abada.

If my wife vanished under those conditions, I’ll never find her.

Ala bε wa nyini k’o di ne ma.

But God will go searching for me and bring her back.”

[after some time]

Nanyuman wada ole dɔ

Nanyuman went

K’i sεnsεn wuruu, ka na se so.

slowly to the village, to reach home.

A nad’a fa sɔdɔ

She went to her father

A ko: Aaa n buwa! I d’a fɔ n yé dε!

and said: “Oh daddy! You had warned me well!

O kε n’i ban ne dɔ.

The man has left me.

Hali ne ye duku min dɔ, k’o bεε bila ka wa duku gwεdε dɔ.

He even left the village where we lived to go to another village.”

A ko: Aaa n den! N y’a fɔ i ye di?

The father replied: “Ah, my daughter! What did I say?”

A ko Nanyuman! I kεlanka kɔdɔyi ya sanba nalen

“Nanyuman”, he continued, “the family of your former husband has sent a message

K’i denkεnin kelen najikitɔ. O ko ye di?

that your only son will soon be circumcised. What is your situation?”

A ko: Aaa n buwa! O ko tε nya gwεdε ma.

“Oh father! It must go ahead.

Ayi bε jenbefɔlayi nyini,

Search for the jembe players,

Ka balafɔlayi nyini,

search for the balafon players,

Ka jalimosongarayi nyini.

search for the best female griots.

N ka la ayi kan

I will join them to

Ka wa n den soli si n kε kɔdɔ bada,

go and celebrate with my ex-husband the circumcision ceremonies of my son,

N kε ka samada kɔdɔ ta, ka n jufidi mabεnbεn.

and to allow my husband to spank my bottom with an old shoe.”

Ayiwa, n badennu! Nanyuman dontɔ,

So, dear audience! Nanyuman,

Kε kuda bid’i b’an dɔ,

after her new husband had abandoned her,

A kε kɔdɔ, a dontɔ o bada, a ye dɔnkili min la.

returned home to her former husband and sang a song.

N k’o la wa?

Shall I sing it for you?

[the rest of the song is in song mode]

A ko Nanyuman d’i ban a kε fɔlɔ le dɔ

Nanyuman abandoned her first husband

A d’i bari kεkudalu fε, kεkudalu d’i ban ne dɔ.

to escape with a new one that left her in turn.

Aaa kεkɔdɔlu kɔnɔnyafɔlɔ lajikitɔ, dimi ma to baasi dɔ.

Ah, the first born of the former husband will be circumcised,

patience can meet any challenge.

Tan-tε-n-kɔnɔ, n’a bε kεla tan

I did not expect this, but if everyone was treated that way

Dinya d’i fεrε dɔɔnin.

life would be more peaceful.

Ayiwa n’a bε kεla jonjonjonyi na tan wo, an di fεrε dɔɔnin.

If everyone who ran away was treated that way, life would be more peaceful.

Aaa n’a bε kεla tan

Ah, if everyone was treated that way

Dinya ye suma dɔɔnin.

life would be more peaceful.

N’a bε kεla kεdabanmosoyi la tan wo, ɔdi fεrε dɔɔnin.

If all women who leave their husbands were treated that way, life would be more peaceful.

Kanja Burema lee, n’a bε kεla tan

Kanja Burema, if everyone was treated that way

Dinya di fεrε dɔɔnin.

life would be more peaceful.

Ayiwa n’a bε kεla minantalayi la tan wo, an di fεrε dɔɔnin.

If all those who are packing their bags were treated that way, we would be more peaceful.

Aaa, n’a bε kεla tan

Ah, if everyone was treated that way

Dinya ye suma dɔɔnin.

life would be more peaceful.

N’a bε kεla kεdabanmosoyi la tan wo,

If all women who leave their husbands were treated that way,

Dinya di fεrε dɔɔnin.

life would be more peaceful.

“Nanyuman” by Siramori Diabaté19

Iyo, Kanja Burema le!

Yes, Kanja Burema!

Ko wadi le nɔɔ.

It is the fault of money.

Ah! N ko wadi ni wɔyɔ!

Oh! Money sows discord!

I m’a ye faransewadi di n nεnε.

You see, French money deceived me.

A ko Nanyumanin le Nanyumanin le!

Little Nanyuman! Little Nanyuman!

Se bε moso min ye bεε ye fudu mara.

A woman who can should take care20 of her marriage.

Hali se tε moso min ye bεε fudu, i kana niminsa.

Even a woman who can’t, should take care of her marriage, or she will later regret it.

Mosoninmεsεnnu le, bεε ye fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

Young women! You should take care of your marriage, or you will later regret it.

Moso karankεlalu le, bεε ka fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

Educated women! You should take care of your marriage, or you will later regret it.

Ah! Ah! Mosofudukεlalu le, bεε ye fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

Ah! Ah! Married women! You should take care of your marriage, or you will later regret it.

Mosotɔkɔmalalu le, bεε ye fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

Pregnant women! You should take care of your marriage, or you will later regret it.

Dɔnkililajelu le n’ayi ma fudu mara, ayi bε niminsa.

Female singers, if you don’t take care of your marriage, you will later regret it.

Eh! Eh! Bεε ka fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

Eh! Eh! Everyone should take care of their marriage, or they will later regret it.

Malimosoninmεsεnnu le bεε ka fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

All young women of Mali should take care of their marriage, or they will later regret it.

Soloyo, n bε sinbon mawelela, Madujinba ni Farajinba.

Soloyo! I call to commemorate the brave Madu Jinba and Faran Jinba.

Aa, aa, Ala tε lɔn.

Ah! Ah! No one knows God [well enough].

Jɔn kana baka jɔnnɔkɔon na.

No slave21 should insult another slave.

Ayi m’a ye jɔn bεε n’i lakunu kan.

See that every slave has his destiny.

A ko Nanyumanin le, Nanyuman le!

Little Nanyuman, little Nanyuman!

Ah Ne baden silamalu ayi ni ke!

Ah! Dear audience,22 I greet you!

Ne Siramori Jabate natɔ yɔrɔnin min fɔla nin di.

I, Siramori Diabaté, I have come to tell you something.

Hadama, n’i ka dɔnkili wo dɔnkili la, ni kɔdɔ t’a la,

If someone sings a song that doesn’t make sense,

A bε mɔkɔyi kɔnɔdɔfili.

it will confuse the people.

A kεkun le fεlε ne fε nin di, k’a kɔdɔ l’a kan ayo k’a mεn — Nanyuman.

For this reason I will sing you a song, and clarify its meaning — Nanyuman.

Hali ne yεdε min kan y’a lala nin di, ne Siramori Jabate, n ye moso di.

I myself, Siramori Diabaté, whose voice sings this, I am a woman, too.

Mosolu, ayi ye hakεto dε,

Women, I apologize,

Ne yεdε kan y’a lala; n yεdε sɔn y’a di.

[because] what my own voice sings is about my own failings.

Nk’a fɔlen mosolu ye, oyi y’i miiri a kuma ma, fɔlɔ ngaralu fε, ka furu bato.

But it was told by the famous griots of the past, for the women who contemplated about these words, in order to remain faithful to their marriages.

N kεkun ye k’a fɔ alu ye ole di.

For this reason I sing you this song.

Malimosolu, ayi wo ne wo, an bεε k’an miiri kuma nin ma, an ka fudu bato.

Women of Mali! You and I should contemplate about these words, in order to remain faithful to our marriages.

Nanyuman y’a kε kan, kεlε t’a n’a kε tε.

Nanyuman lived in harmony with her husband.

Fufunintiki dɔ nalen.

There (once) came a carrier of a small basket.

I komi n y’a fɔ alu ye nya min ma, fɔlɔmɔkɔlu tun bε woro kε worosakinin dɔ, k’a lasidi,

As I have told you, in the past people packed kola nuts in little hives,

K’a l’i kun, k’i tɔkɔma duku nin duku tε k’a yaara.

And carried these on their heads from village to village [to sell them].

Worofufunintiki, a nada se Nanyuman kε ma.

A carrier of a little basket of kola nuts came to Nanyuman’s husband.

Ko Kanja Burema, I tε hakεto n ka bi ni sini f’I fε, ka n ya woro mayida dɔɔni.

He said: “Kanja Burema, please allow me to stay at your place today and tomorrow, to sell my kola nuts in the area.

N bεdε n tɔkɔma yɔrɔlu fε, n bε se ka na si fε yan.

When I go from place to place during daytime, I can pass the night here at your place.”

O ko o moso ma ko Nanyuman,

He [Kanja Burema] called his wife: “Nanyuman,

K’i bε bolonkɔnɔla fida, i ka wa dεbεn dɔlu bila yen.

sweep the interior of the entrance hut, and put there some sleeping mats.

Ko bawo k’olu ye julalu di, k’ayi bεnnin bolon ne kɔnɔ.

Because this man is a traveling merchant, and these [merchants] feel better in an entrance hut.”

O ye bolon fida,

She swept the entrance hut,

Ka lolankε rɔbεn, a n’a bolofεnnu, ka w’a bila yen.

and prepared it for the guest — his belongings were deposited there.

Aa, aa, Nanyuman!

Ah! Ah! Nanyuman!

A ye su fula kε, a b’i miiri.

For two nights he [the guest] contemplated.

N’a ye fεn o fεn fɔ, Nanyuman b’o bεε d’a ma.

Nanyuman gave him everything that he asked for.

A su filanan dukusεgwεlen,

After the second night, a new day started,

Telekunna dɔ, kε bada wa konko dɔ.

In the early afternoon, the husband went to his field.

A walen konko dɔ, Nanyuman ye kodo ta,

After he had gone to his field, Nanyuman took a stool,

A nada don kε fε bolon na, k’i sik’a fε.

And seated herself next to him [the guest] in the entrance hut.

Lolankε ko Nanyuman, k’e tε woro fε wa?

“Do you like kola nuts?” the guest asked to Nanyuman.

Ko n ye woro fε kε.

“I really like kola nuts.”

K’i tε dɔ ta!

“Then take some.”

Nanyuman ye woro dɔ ta.

Nanyuman took a kola nut.

Lolankε ko ee, Nanyuman, ko kelen yεdε nɔ ye ne bali:

The guest said: “Nanyuman, I am surprised about one thing:

Ne tele fila ye yan ayi bada ni.

I have lived here at your place for two days.

Ne nya y’i la, i mafani nɔkɔlen, i nyama nɔkɔlen.

I see you look poor and wear only this dirty cloth.

Nin moso nyumanba nin!

A very beautiful woman like you!

E k’i kεnya dɔgwε sa kε!

Look how you look like!

N’i di ne sɔn ne dɔ, walahi Nanyuman, n b’i fudu.

I swear [by God], Nanyuman, when you love me, I will marry you.

N b’i fudu, n bε fani d’i ma, n bε wadi d’i ma, n bε sani d’i ma.

I will marry you, give you clothes, give you money, give you gold.”

Nanyuman ko: Aa, nfa, nayi ye an ta nyadɔban nin le dɔ yan.

Nanyuman said: “Ah, sir! We live here in misery.

N’i kεdεkε n fε, n fεnε y’i fε wala.

If you love me, I will love you the same.

Tɔ tε n na.

I can’t stand it anymore.”

Lolankε ko: Nanyuman, sini n bε n sara i kε la ko n wato.

The guest said: “Tomorrow I will say goodbye to your husband.

N bada wa, n bε wa i makɔnɔn dukusokɔfε, fukaninkun na.

But I will wait for you behind the village, in the open space in the bush.”

O dukusagwεlen, lolankε d’i sara Nanyuman kε la, a wada.

On that day the guest said goodbye to Nanyuman’s husband, and he departed.

Nanyuman y’i lɔ a kε ka wa fodo dɔ.

Nanyuman waited until her husband went to his field.

O walen, a d’a ya minannu daladε; a d’a kε hεεn.

After he had left for his field, she took her belongings, and fled.

Kanja Burema nada ka bɔ konko dɔ.

Kanja Burema returned from his field.

A ko Nanyuman bε min? Ee, n moso ka tunun kun t’i la.

“Where is Nanyuman?” he asked, “has my wife disappeared without a reason?

N t’o nyini, Alla b’o nyini!

I won’t track her down, but God will!”

A wada kε wo fε.

She departed with this man.

Wadi banda, sani banda.

([after some time]…)

His money finished, his gold finished.

Ko Nanyuman ma n t’i fε bi n t’i fε sini.

He said to Nanyuman: “I don’t love you anymore.

Kabini n d’i fudu, n na wadi bannin n na sani bannin.

Since I married you my money is finished, my gold is finished.”

Ayi ye duku min dɔ, a y’o bila Nanyuman kɔsɔn, ka wa duku gwεdε dɔ.

Because of Nanyuman he left his village and he settled in another village.

Nanyuman sakeda ka n’a fa la lu ma.

Nanyuman returned to her father’s compound.

A ko aa, aa, n fa, i nɔ ye a fɔ n ye, ko n kana wa kε nin fε.

“Aa, aa, daddy”, she said, “you advised me not to accompany this man.

I nɔ ye a fɔ min ma a kεlen tan.

Things have happened as you said.

A fεlε nin di a nɔ ye i ban n dɔ.

Now he has abandoned me.”

A fa ko, ko sanba nalen ka bɔ i kεlakɔrɔ dɔ, k’i denkεninfɔlɔ lajikitɔ sini.

Her father said: “The old husband has informed us that your first son will be circumcised tomorrow.”

Nanyuman ko, fo ni n sakeda n kɔ ka na n den soli si,

Nanyuman said: “I have to return to my husband in order to celebrate the circumcision,

N kε ka samadakɔdɔ ta ka n jufidi mabεnbεn.

And to let my husband spank my bottom with an old shoe.”

O kεlen o dɔ: o da jenbetikilu nyini, ka jalimosongaralu nyini, k’olu bil’a kɔ ka taka.

And so it happened: she assembled djembe players and griottes, to accompany her.

Ee, ee, mosolu, Nanyuman ye dɔkili min la a kεlasokɔfε a n’a ya fɔlilayi dontɔ a kεkɔdɔ bεdε, n b’o yɔrɔ fɔ ayi ye. A ko:

Women! I will sing for you the song by Nanyuman and the musicians at the entrance of the compound of her old husband. It says:

[the following is in song mode]

Nanyuman d’i ban a kεfɔlɔ le dɔ, a d’i bari kεkudalu fε.

Nanyuman abandoned her first husband and settled with a new one.

Aa, kεkudalu d’i ban ale dɔ.

But the new one abandoned her.

Aa, kεkɔdɔlu kɔnɔnyafɔlɔ lajikitɔ.

Aa! The first child from the first marriage was about to be circumcised.

Dimi ma to basi dɔ.

Patience will relieve every barrier.

Tan-tε-n kɔnɔ n’a bε kεla tan wo, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

If everybody was treated like me, life would be more peaceful.

A ko n’a bε kεla jonjonjonyi la tan wo, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

If a runaway was treated that way, life would be more peaceful.

N’a bε kεla kεdɔbanmosoyi la tan wo, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

If a woman who abandons her husband was treated that way, life would be more peaceful.

Kanja Burema le n’a bε kεla tan, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

Kanja Burema, if it always would end like this, life would be more peaceful.

A ko n’a bε kεla kεdɔbanmosoyi la tan wo, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

If a woman who abandons her husband was treated this way, life would be more peaceful.

Aa, n’a bε kεla tan, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

If it would always end like this, life would be more peaceful.

N’a bε kεla kεdɔbanmosoyi la tan wo, dinya di fεrε dɔɔni.

If a woman who abandons her husband was treated this way, life would be more peaceful.

[the following is in speech mode]

Mali kεlasikimosolu le bεε ka fudu mara wo, i kana niminsa.

Married women of Mali, you all should take care of your marriage, or you will later regret it.

Aa, bεε ka fudu mara, i kana niminsa.

Everybody should take care of their marriage, or they will later regret it.

Mosoninmεsεnnu le bεε ka fudu mara wo, i kana niminsa.

Young women, you all should take care of your marriage, or you will later regret it.


Camara, B. (2002) “La femme dans les chansons de Siramori Jabaté” (conference paper, Fifth International Conference on Mande Studies, Leiden, 17–21 June).

Camara, B. and Jansen, J. (2013) “A Heroic Performance by Siramori Diabaté in Mali”, in: Hale, T. A. and Sidikou, A. G. (eds.) Women’s Songs from West Africa (Bloomington/Indianapolis, Indiana University Press): 136–151.

Camara, M. S. (2005) His Master’s Voice: Mass Communication and Single Party Politics in Guinea under Sékou Touré (Trenton NJ, Africa World Press).

Charry, E. (2000) Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).

Counsel, G. (2009) “Digitising and Archiving Syliphone Recordings in Guinea”, Australasian Review of African Studies 30–1: 144–150.

― (2010) “Music for a Coup — ‘Armée Guinéenne’. An Overview of Guinea’s Recent Political Turmoil”, Australasian Review of African Studies 31–2: 94–112.

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― (2013) “The Music Archives of Guinea: Nationalism and its Representation under Sékou Touré” (conference proceedings: African Renaissance and Australia, Murdoch University),

― (2015) “Music for a Revolution: The Sound Archives of Radio Télévision Guinée”, in: Kaminko, M. (ed.) From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme (Cambridge, Open Book Publishers): 547–586,;

Counsel, G., Jansen, J. and Camara, B. (forthcoming in the Journal of West African History) “Sex, Drugs, and Diplomacy — Why Siramori Diabaté’s Song ‘Nanyuman’ Was Such a Success in Mali and Guinea”.

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Diabaté, Siramori. Sòròfè [n.d.] (Bamako, Editions Jamana [audio cassette]).

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Hale, T. A. and Sidikou, A. G. (eds.) (2013) Women’s Songs from West Africa (Bloomington/Indianapolis, Indiana University Press).

Hoffman, B. H. (2001) Griots at War — Conflict, Conciliation, and Caste in Mande (Bloomington, Indiana University Press).

Jansen, J. (1996) “‘Elle Connaît Tout le Mande’ — A Tribute to the Griotte Siramori Diabaté”, Research in African Literatures 27–4: 198–216.

― (2012) “‘Copy Debts’? Towards a Cultural Model for Researchers’ Accountability in an Age of Web Democracy”, Oral Tradition 27–2: 351–362.

Sidikou, A. G. and Hale, T. A. (2012) Women’s Voices from West Africa — An Anthology of Songs from the Sahel (Bloomington/Indianapolis, Indiana University Press).

Simonis, F. (2015) “Le griot, l’historien, le chasseur et l’UNESCO”, Ultramarines 28: 12–31.

Siramori Diabaté — Griot Music from Mali #3 (2002 [CD with field recordings by Jan Jansen from 1988–1989 and by John Johnson from 1973–1974]) (Leiden, PAN records 2104).

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Smith, E. (2010) Les arts de faire société. Parentés à plaisanterie et constructions identitaires en Afrique de l’ouest (Sénégal) (Paris, IEP).

Video references

Diabaté, Siramori (ca 1985), “Nanyuman”,

Kouyaté, Sory Kandia et l’Ensemble Instrumental de la Radiodiffusion Nationale (1977), “No title”,

― “Touyendé”,

― “PDG”,

1 The video is available at For the transcription, see page 89.

2 Graeme Counsel received major research project funding from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme in 2008, 2009, and 2012–2013. See Counsel (2009, 2012, 2015).

3 The video consists of three songs by Kandia, now available at, and
. See also video references below.

4 For material recorded during the Premier Festival Culturel Panafricain.

5 To the present day, the practicing musicians in Siramori’s family often tour in Guinea. In the 1960s and 1970s, the political elites in both countries highly valued Maninka culture and traditions. See Counsel (2013), (2010); M. Camara (2005); Charry (2000); Skinner (2012). Siramori’s call for a better understanding of a woman’s position in society, which is one of the main themes of her work (cf. Jansen (1996); Camara (2002); Counsel, Jansen and Camara [accepted for publication]), was of major appeal to both the political regimes of Sékou Touré in Guinea and Modibo Keita in Mali (1960–1968).

7 A highlight of this concert can be seen at

8 There also is a 1985 recording from the Malian national television in which Siramori performs with her cousin Kelabala Diabaté (previously available at, the video now appears to have been taken down due to third-party notifications of copyright infringement”). In Kita in 1985, the regional rival griot families were publicly reconciled, with Kela’s griots performing the role of externally appointed negotiators. The event attracted significant media attention in Mali and is the focus of a monograph by Barbara Hoffman 2001. The rivalries among the Kita griots were longstanding, and have served, for instance, as the background for several novels by one of Mali’s most acclaimed authors, Massa Makan Diabaté, who is himself a griot of Kita origin.

9 The audio-visual archives at the RTG have not been well maintained. In addition to over 10,000 audio recordings on ¼” magnetic tape, there are thousands of hours of video recordings covering news items, documentaries, sports, interviews, and music, and several hundred reels of the committee meetings and speeches of Sékou Touré and the Parti Démocratique de Guinée. The archive constitutes a major repository of materials from the Sékou Touré era, though much was destroyed in the months following Touré’s death (for example, the collections of Syli Film and Syli Photo). The RTG has digitized some of the material but it is kept locked in a cupboard and is never broadcast.

10 “Nanyuman” has been recorded by other artists, including l’Orchestre Régional de Kayes,

11 The legal framework may emanate from either the country in which the attorney works or the country of the performers. We note that institutions that are supposed to represent local artists barely function and are criticized by indigenous artists as corrupt. See Counsel’s reference to “Eating the Money” on his Radio Africa website — We doubt, for instance, if the publication of the lyrics of “Nanyuman” is of any concern to the BUMDA, the Bureau Malien du Droit d’Auteur, or to their Guinean counterpart, the Bureau Guinéen des Droits d’Auteur (BGDA) — both do not have a functioning website. The reason for the existence of the BUMDA and the BGDA is, principally, to prevent piracy, which is a significant problem in both Mali and Guinea.

12 As an illustration of the local tensions regarding intangible heritage in the area where Siramori lived, see the ownership discussion related to the Sunjata epic in Kela (Jansen 2012) and the process through which local stakeholders acquired UNESCO recognition of Mande oral traditions as a Monument of Intangible Heritage (cf. Smith 2010; Simonis 2015).

13 Siramori’s interpretation of “Nanyuman” on Sòròfe [n.d.] is performed for a live audience and elaborates on the dialogues between Nanyuman and the traveling merchant — the audience is highly amused by it. For a literary and social analysis of the song “Nanyuman”, see Counsel, Jansen and Camara (under review).

14 As another illustration of Siramori’s present-day status in Mali, two collections of her best songs, collected by Mali’s Ministry of Culture, were published as “Musique du Mali I: Banzoumana” (Syllart/Mélodie 38901–2) and “Musique du Mali II: Sira Mory” (Syllart/Mélodie 38902–2).

15 The first few seconds of the recording are missing.

16 Bolon = hut with two doors that functions as the entrance of a traditional Maninka compound — in French often translated as vestibule. In the region south of Bamako, some prestigious families own a bolon as a sanctuary, the most well-known being the Kamabolon in Kangaba.

17 Nyuman means morally good, a concept which should not be mixed with di, which means good for taste, smell, touch, weather, etc. (but is never used to describe human beings); a beautiful woman is always nyuman. Note that nyuman is part of Nanyuman’s name (cf. Derive 2008).

18 An idiophone expressing speed.

19 This transcription and translation has been based on a commercial cassette that was available to Brahima Camara in 2000, when Jan Jansen stayed with his family. At this very moment we don’t know of any available copy of this recording.

20 Mara = to guard.

21 We read “slave” here as a “servant of God”.

22 baden = kinship term that expresses harmony, literally “children of the same father and the same mother; silimalu (pl.) = (lit.) “Muslim”, but usually used to address a group of people in a respectful way.