Musician Jali Fily maintains a family tradition by helping spread the word to schools about life in West Africa.

Oxfordshire-based African musician Jali Fily’s Griot tradition has been recognised as an important asset in a new exciting language teaching resource called Take Mali, a cross-curricular interactive resource designed to support children with their progression in intercultural understanding at key stage 2 and 3 through French, geography and global citizenship.

Griot is the name for a storyteller in West Africa where there is a strong history of oral tradition. Griots are poets and musicians, as well as being historical experts, and political commentators and advisors.

A person may only become a Griot if they are born into a Griot family. Jali Fily’s family can trace its roots back to 13th century Mali, where they advised and entertained the kings of the great Mali empire.

Jali’s family maintains this tradition, performing at ceremonies in Senegal and abroad and now also as professional musicians rercording their music, and performing at concerts and festivals.

Teachers Sharon Tanner and Matt Partridge, who were working with the Devon Development Education and Devon County Council’s Learning and Development Partnership on the Take Mali project, met Jali when he was performing in Devon. Sharon said: “It was an amazing experience to hear and meet Jali Fily. It was just what we needed for our project.”

Take Mali takes children on a fascinating exploration of the French-speaking country of Mali and explore similarities and differences between their own and Malian daily lives, values and attitudes.

It includes a range of exciting video, audio and ICT-based resources that have been developed to allow learners to gain an insight into some of the people, places and traditions of this culturally and historically rich country.

Opportunities are also provided for children to explore the effects of tourism, fairtrade and sustainable development in both French and English, as they are encouraged to reflect on these important issues in their role as global citizens. Both the DVDs and supporting book have been designed to be easy for teachers to use, even if they have only a limited knowledge of French.

At the recent launch of the Take Mali project at the House of Commons, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education congratulated the council and Devon Development Education on the project.

Christine Lord, Jali Fily's manager and co-founder of KAIRA Arts, represented the musician at the launch. She said: “We are delighted to be involved with the Take Mali project. It will help further our aims,” she said.

Currently back home in Sengal, Jali Fily said: “I was very happy to contribute my Griot culture to this project. I love working with the children in England. They are very interested in my instrument, the kora. Many have never seen or heard of it before.

“Griots are taught how to make the kora before we learn how to play. I made my first kora with my late father at the age of six and then he taught me how to play. It is now my cousin Aliou in my home town of Ziguinchor who makes my kora.This tradition has been passed down from my Griot ancestors.”

Christine first met Jali Fily in Oxford while he was on tour with his family group, Jalikunda.

She was invited to join the family for workshops in Senegal and visit their home Jalikunda House (house of Griots) in Casamance, southern Senegal.

“It was an unforgettable experience,” Christine said. “I was greeted by many family members, mother and sisters singing, father and brothers playing the kora, other members drumming and dancing.”

In 2002 she and Jali Fily founded KAIRA Arts to promote and maintain the Griot culture and arts of West Africa. KAIRA Arts now give performances, master classes and workshops throughout Oxfordshire, the UK and abroad. Jali Fily performs solo and with his new group The Coute Diomboulou Band and, with the assistance of Tim Healey (Oxford Folk Festival), his Griot music can be heard at major festivals across the UK.

For more information on the Take Mali project visit the website: