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How Stories are told in Different Parts of the World – Part 2

Storytelling differs all over the world and the way people relay their news and information can be delivered many different ways. In speech, song, dance and using props such as puppetry, we look at some of the vastly different ways that stories are told around the world.


The Japanese art of storytelling is called Rakugo and the single narrator or storyteller is a Hanashika. The stories that the Hahashika tells are rather vague with no real reference to actual persons or events, as this may lead to offense. Rather the stories relayed are more generalist such as historical events or moral dilemmas. Often these tales would be narrated with humor, and the Hanashika was a form of a stand-up comic.


We move to West Africa for our next form of storytelling called, Griot. Griots or as they are sometimes called Jelis are the people who look after a tribe’s social history. And they relay historical information about their society in a performance of singing and music. The best way to look at a Griot is as a sort of genealogist; they are keepers of cultural histories and family information. These important West African storytellers also performed for nobility and are highly regarded by the whole society.


Indian dance has always featured greatly in the history of Indian storytelling. The Devadasis (Indian temple dancers) would tell their stories by performing Bharatanatyam which is a highly complex form of dance, which is also considered as a prayer. Each dance depicts a different deity, such as Shiva or Krishna. Each temple has their own specific dances for their deities and on certain religious festivals the Bharatanatyam would be performed. This ancient form of storytelling goes back millennia and was developed in Tamil Nadu, which is in southern India. It is interesting that over the last century Bharatanatyam has seen a resurgence of popularity all over India and is commonly practiced today in temples and on religious festivals.


This Caribbean form of storytelling is often confused with pop music, as it grew so popular with its catchy rhythms that many people did not fully understand its meaning. It all began in Trinidad during the early parts of the 20th Century. Lyrics of songs depicted life on the island and the day to day dramas that were played out in neighborhoods. Calypso told of local events, who was dating who, but also delved into political matters that were sometimes frowned upon by the authorities.

Calypso songs were often censored by the government, songs about inequality and injustice. These topics were banned from speeches so the only way to talk about them was in the form of a song. The highly tuneful Calypso songs sometimes disguised their real purpose, which was really all about social comment. Storytelling around the world has always been a highly important way of preserving culture and heritage but also a way of spreading the news and important information. As we have seen it can be done a myriad of different ways and long may it continue.

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