Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations showcase their work

Posted on 21/03/2012
mali-cuba musical connections

Daniel Dembele (right) is the youngest of the musicians joining Dr Geoff Baker in Cuba this month

Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations is a unique project that celebrates two great musical cultures and their deep historical and cultural connections, through the musicianship of young children. It emerges out of a three-year, primarily film-based research project – Growing Into Music – funded by a major grant from the AHRC’s Beyond Text scheme, and coordinated by a team of scholars including Dr Geoff Baker from the Music Department at Royal Holloway.

This week Dr Baker has taken four talented Malian children to Cuba for 10 days of concerts, workshops and musical exchange with Cuban children - read how this project is improving understanding of world cultures and musical development in the young: 

Growing into Music  has been researching children’s acquisition of musical skills and knowledge in India, Rajasthan, Azerbaijan, Mali, Guinea, Venezuela and Cuba, led by Dr Lucy Durán (SOAS, Principal Investigator) and Dr Geoff Baker (RHUL, Co-investigator).

Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations, is a follow-on project, also funded by Beyond Text, and coordinated by Dr Durán and Dr Baker. It looks specifically at common musical ground between Mali and Cuba that has emerged in the course of our research, and has as its business partner the UK label World Circuit Records. It aims to bring the results of their research to wider audiences as well as back into the communities themselves through a series of public events and workshops in both countries. It seeks to stimulate the transfer of musical skills and knowledge across generations, and to enable first-hand – and first-time – musical encounters between talented children from Mali with those of Cuba.

The first phase of Mali-Cuba took place in Mali in January 2012. The highlight of the events was a concert that opened the 2012 series of Jeudis Musicaux (Musical Thursdays) sponsored by Mali’s National Museum in Bamako. It featured some thirty Malian children between the ages of 4-15, from eight distinguished griot families that the researchers had been following over the past three years. The documentary films made for the project about children from oral traditions in Mali and Cuba were screened at the Conservatoire des Arts Balla Faseke Kouyaté, and at the National Museum. Reports, photos and video footage of these events are posted online 

The second phase of the project takes place this month in Cuba, 21 March - 1 April 2012, and is hosted by Cary Diez, vice-president of UNEAC (the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). Dr Baker, Dr Durán and project assistant Michele Banal will be joined in Cuba by four of the most talented young Malian griots, age 9-14, under the musical guidance of virtuoso balafon player Lassana Diabaté (former member of the Toumani Diabaté Symmetric Orchestra, and a member of the Grammy-nominated band AfroCubism). Lassana has been research assistant on the project since 2009 and is one of Mali’s leading musicians.

The Malian musicians, none of whom has ever left Mali before, will be meeting their equivalents, the talented Cuban children that the project has been working with from Havana, Matanzas, and Güines. Together, they will participate in a series of events and exchange musical ideas and knowledge. This includes informal workshops with other children at the student residence of the Escuela Nacional de Arte, where they will be staying; a presentation at the international music conference “Premio y Coloquio de Musicología,” taking place at the Casa de las Américas (where Durán and Baker will screen their films and introduce the project); a reception and performance at Casa Africa, where Cuban children will be taught the clapping songs of Mali; and concerts at prestigious venues such as UNEAC’s Hurón Azul.

They will finally be showcasing their work at the opening of the newly refurbished Teatro Miramar on Saturday the 31st of March before returning to Mali.

Details of this event can be found on the World Circuit website,


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