Back from Mali

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The Mali-Cuba team recently returned from Mali, where they had organised the first of the Mali-Cuba events. On January 5, 2012, children of eight different musical families from Bamako, Kita, Ségou and Garana joined forces to put on a remarkable and unprecedented concert in front of an enthusiastic audience of several hundred people in Bamako’s National Park.

The concert opened the 2012 series entitled Jeudis Musicaux (Musical Thursdays) sponsored by Mali’s National Museum. The director of the series, Mme Fatou Toure, was overjoyed at the level of musicianship of the children, the youngest of whom was four years old. “The Museum has never before hosted such a concert. It shows us how important it is to showcase the skills of our young griot children”. Most of these children, who have been the protagonists of Lucy’s research in Mali for the last three years, met each other for the very first time only three days before the actual concert, during a collective rehearsal supervised by our team-member, virtuoso balafon player Lassana Diabate. After a rather shy and tentative start, the children soon discovered common musical ground. The rehearsal ended with a playful and lively jam session involving the children dancing, shouting, singing, and swapping instruments, to the accompaniment of one of the oldest tunes in the griot repertoire.

At the concert itself, each family took it in turn to play three pieces. Parents took a back seat while the children delighted the audience with their performance skills, showing a confidence and poise that were truly impressive, especially as for many of them, it was the first concert of their career!

In the audience, different generations of Malians clapped along with the songs. Scattered among them, almost incognito, were some of the most respected and best known musicians of the country, there to see the performance of their sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grandsons and granddaughters. The children in the audience stared in amazement at the children on stage. Some of them got up and joined in the dancing. Music continued until well after sunset, when the division between audience and musicians broke down as everybody, young and less young, started clapping and dancing to the game-songs of the Kouyate girls of Garana.

The concert was a huge success, and surprised and delighted us all. We suspect we may have started a new trend of children’s concerts at the Museum. Parents and children alike agreed that it had acted as a huge motivation. Above are some pictures of the concert and its protagonists.

During our stay in Bamako, our films on Mali and Cuba were screened several times:

At the National Museum of Mali for an all-children audience on January 6, 2012.

At the Conservatoire des Arts “Balla Fasseke Kouyaté” for the students and teachers of the conservatoire, on January 5 and January 11, 2012.

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