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 follows on from a three-year, film-based research project –Growing Into Music– funded by the UK Arts & Humanities’ Research Council.
For the past three years our team has documented, through film, the ways in which musical knowledge and skills are passed on within specialist musical families in both Mali and Cuba. In each country, we have been working with families who are considered custodians of great musical traditions: the virtuoso drumming and singing of rumba in Cuba, and the extraordinary centuries-old music of hereditary “griots” in Mali. The children of these families are the protagonists of our films, as we follow their musical growth over time. We also consider how oral traditions in both countries interact with more formal schooling, the media, and other aspects of modern society.
The musical traditions of Mali and Cuba have strong stylistic links. These links were first established during the slave trade, as many slaves from West Africa were taken to the Caribbean. Then much later during the 20th century, Afro-Cuban music “returned” to Mali through commercial recordings and the radio, making a huge impact on the development of popular music in West Africa in general. As a consequence, many of even the most traditional musicians in Mali are familiar with Cuban music. In Cuba, on the other hand, there is little awareness of the sophisticated contemporary styles from Mali that are currently making waves in the world music market.
Mali-Cuba: music across generations sets out to explore the connections between children in these two great cultures, and to share the exciting results of our investigation both with the families involved and the general public.
The first destination of our project will be Bamako, Mali’s capital city. There, in January 2012, we will organize a series of screenings of our documentary films –the first of which for an all-children audience– and a public music performance at the National Museum of Mali, which will see most of the protagonists of our Mali documentary film perform on the same stage.
Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations will then travel to Cuba in March 2012, when we will bring four Malian children to Havana and Matanzas to meet and work with their Cuban peers. The children will participate together in a series of music workshops that will culminate in joint performances during an all-day Mali-Cuba festival and a concert at the beautiful and newly refurbished Miramar Theatre in Havana.
A short film documenting the events in Mali and Cuba will be released in April 2012.
Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations has found an ideal business partner in World Circuit Records, the multi-award winning independent UK label (Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabate) that has recently released the album Afrocubism, a collaboration between some of Cuba’s and Mali’s best musicians. World Circuit’s main role will be to publicise our project and its outputs among international world music audiences.