19th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest People
Guelel Kumba, griot

"Guelel Kumba is a guitarist, singer and songwriter of Fulani heritage who is currently based in Oxford. He grew up in the Futa Toro region in the Senegal River valley, which encompasses areas of northern Senegal and southern Mauritania. His father was of Senegalese nationality, his mother of Mauritanian nationality. Kumba’s paternal grandfather was a griot, the caste of musicians and oral historians, but his father did not continue in the tradition. Kumba first came to the U.S. in 2001, initially to New Orleans and then to New York. In September 2002 Kumba first visited Oxford as part of a tribute to the late anthropology instructor Peter Aschoff, who had taught a blues course taken by a Senegalese friend of Kumba. Kumba was embraced by local musicians, and moved to Oxford the following January. In Oxford Kumba discovered the close ties between North Mississippi blues traditions and Fulani music. He had heard soul and blues in Africa as a youth, but he didn’t recognize tangible connections between the different forms of music until he encountered the blues of North Mississippi hill country performers, notably David “Junior” Kimbrough. In Oxford Kumba has performed solo, accompanying himself on guitar, as well as with his band Afrissippi. His typical sets include a mix of traditional Fulani songs and originals." -from Mississippi Folk Life Register

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 07.2020
Date Uploaded: 11.2021
Photo Location: Clarksdale, Mississippi, United States of America
Copyright: © william steber