« Les rois de Ségou » : De l’épopée à la série télévisée
Les Rois de Ségou (“The Kings of Segu”) is a television series from Mali directed by Boubacar Sidibé, released to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Mali’s independence (22 September 1960). Together with another film released at about the same time, Samanyana Basi (“Basi from the village of Samanyana”), it is largely based on oral traditions pertaining to the Bamanadominated state of Segu (ca. 1700–1860). The film was originally shot in French; after a first showing, it was dubbed in Bamana due to popular demand. The director employed several strategies to best adapt this oral tradition to the screen: citations from the songs are preserved (in the original Bamana); the role of dialogue is reinforced in order to make up for the disappearance of the bard’s narrative voice; and the dialogues are laden with adages, thus approximating the characteristics of bardic speech. The music draws not only on that traditionally associated with the epic, but also on a full range of Bamana and non-Bamana, Malian traditional and contemporary music. Dramatic and acting styles are furthermore influenced by the traditional Bamana kòtèba theatre, as well as by the foreign (especially Latin American) television soap operas widely viewed in Mali. Though the subject is ostensibly the past, the social and political critique of contemporary Mali forms the implicit subtext. Inasmuch as Malians of all backgrounds have been highly interested by this series, it evidences that it fosters the emergence of a sense of national identity.
Keywords: adaptation of oral tradition, Boubacar Sidibé, Les Rois de Ségou, Malian television series, oral epic tradition.