Before the introduction of print and broadcast media in Mali, information, entertainment, and criticism were mediated by specialized individuals who performed some of the functions of present media. Using their bodies and musical instruments, these praise singers reminded their audiences of the admirable deeds of ancient heroes, the genealogies of important families, and the country’s imperial history. They also acted as intermediaries between families and in conflicts, and they had the privilege to pronounce social and political criticism. In the course of the region’s conquest by the French colonial power in the 1880s, these human media were confronted with print and broadcast media that modified the existing social and political order and gradually took over the praise singers’ privilege of distributing information.

After independence, the young ...

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