How Africans Invented Audio Books

Modern Audio Books versus Ancient Audio Books

These are the stories told by old women and old men, these stories which were told by the old ones before them. According to Credo Mutwa, who is a keeper of these ancient stories, one was not allowed to alter, add or subtract a single word. These storytellers were entrusted with these stories, with the duty of passing them down to the community. A storyteller had to have a good memory, and was expected to re-tell the story as he had heard it. The human mind is capable of recording and recalling stories word for word. Africans knew about the power of the human mind to memorize and articulate the spoken word as it was told to them. In Africa, when an old person transitions to the land of the dead, we say; a library has fallen, for we know that the knowledge and the stories that old man or woman carried in the wrinkles of their brains is equivalent to a burning library, full of books.

Thus, I say, it was through African storytelling when audio books were invented. Audio books in the modern sense are just recordings of a narrator, giving the written text a breath of life. In Africa, the narrator or the storyteller did not need to read the written text, the story or rather the event was encoded into his subconscious mind, he knew he had a great responsibility on his shoulders because the fate of his nation, rested on how he would tell these stories, with a captivating performance, he had to imprint these images into your mind and he had to do so with caution, without a single alteration of these stories. But wait, these were not just random stories or fictional stories. These were hard facts, historical events, accounts of real people and events , the infant stages of this mighty bowl we call earth… this was how Africans documented history through Audio books, the art of storytelling! Of course one might argue that, “but an audio books is the recorded spoken word, on a technological device” hence Thomas Edison is given credit as the first person to ever record an audio book in 1877, by recording the words “Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow.” however the technological advancement of the West is part and parcel of Western imperialism and neo-colonialism. History is written by the victors. For example Daniel Rager an international award-winning composer and conductor in the field of wind and orchestral music writes that the origin of the instrument “Marimba” is uncertain, that some believe it originated in Southeast Asia in the 14th Century and some believe it originated in Africa. This is a clear example of how Western Civilization shapes the world’s narrative. We have a clear oral history of whence the instrument originates. South Africa has legends of a goddess named Marimba who created a xylophone with gourds attached. That, is our oratory account of our history yet the Western side remains uncertain about this Ancient instrument and yet our Audio Books (oral history) remain a primary source about one of the oldest inventions on Earth. So the phonograph could’ve been invented in Africa long before Thomas Edison was born. The Void and subjectivity in history does not give me the authority I need to elaborate on this point. Be that as it may, as technology advances, human beings will be able to read stories in their brains, and no longer will there be a need to read physical text, as text will be encoded in your brain. So in any event, the idea of recording stories with our bodies and minds will be born again, so yes, Africans invented Audio Books, with or without Thomas Edison’s phonograph.

Article By Lumukanda_, Co-Founder of AudioBook Masters, 03-08-2020.

1 thought on “How Africans Invented Audio Books”

  1. Oh this is such a wonderful perspective… I have come to know that the old people tasked with keeping these stories are called Griots—Such an important cornerstone of African community… Audiobooks can certainly play that role in today’s modern world. Also,demystifying the historical truths about the origins of things is very important today. Thank you for this…

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