The Team

Lucy Durán (PhD SOAS, BMus and MMus King’s College, London) is Senior Lecturer in African music and UG Music Admissions Tutor at SOAS, University of London. Her main regional interests are in West Africa and Cuba. She has been researching music in Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Mali and Cuba for nearly forty years, and is widely published on Mande traditional and popular music, women singers of Mali, the kora, oral transmission of musical knowledge in Mande jeli (griot) families, and Cuban son and rumba. All these are topics she teaches at SOAS, also drawing on her experience in film, radio and music production. Apart from her academic research and teaching, Lucy has a long career as a radio broadcaster. She was a regular presenter on the BBC from 1987-2013, winning a Sony Award for her World Service programmes ‘Latins in the USA’. She presented BBC Radio 3’s World Routes for the duration of its life on air (2000-2013). This involved researching and recording music on location in over forty countries including Cuba, Bolivia, Madagascar, Mali, Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde, which gave her first-hand insight into the changing contexts of music of oral transmission. Her SOAS course ‘Presenting World Music on Radio’, which teaches script-writing and presentation skills, is unique in this country. Lucy is an acclaimed music producer, with more than twenty albums to her name, featuring leading musicians from West Africa including Bassekou Kouyaté, Kassé Mady Diabaté and Toumani Diabaté, for whose albums she has received three Grammy nominations. Her latest album productions are Ladilikan, a new collaboration between the renowned Kronos Quartet and the Malian Trio Da Kali to be released on the World Circuit label in September 2017, as well as the forthcoming Oaxaca’O, an album featuring a little known Afromexican musical tradition recorded on location in Oaxaca, Mexico, to be released on the Mexican label Xquenda.  In 2015 Lucy was hired by the production team of ROOTS –the remake of the famous TV series based on Alex Haley’s best-selling book– to advise on Mandinka music and culture along the Gambia river in the 18th century. The series was broadcast in the UK in 2016. Lucy was Principal Investigator of the film-based research project Growing into Music, funded by Beyond Text (Arts & Humanities’ Research Council) and conducted in Cuba, Venezuela, Mali, Azerbaijan and north India between 2009-12 by a team of four ethnomusicologists. This resulted in unique in-depth documentaries that document the musical progress of children in specialist musical families. Her own films follow children in leading Mande jeli (griot) families in Mali and Guinea. Of these, The Voice of Tradition: Bako Dagnon and Family won the prize for Best AHRC/AHRB-funded film since 1998 at the 2015 AHRC’s Research In Film Awards.


GB photoGeoffrey Baker is a professor in the music department at Royal Holloway, University of London. He specializes in music in Latin America. His book Imposing Harmony: Music and Society in Colonial Cuzco (Duke University Press, 2008) won the American Musicological Society’s Robert Stevenson Award in 2010. Together with Tess Knighton he edited Music and Urban Society in Colonial Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2010). He also works on Latin American popular music, particularly in Cuba, Argentina, and Colombia. His book Buena Vista in the Club: Rap, Reggaetón, and Revolution in Havana (Duke University Press, 2011) was published in the series Refiguring American Music. He was a research associate on the ERC/Oxford University project “Music, Digitization, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies,” for which he carried out fieldwork on digital cumbia and folklore in Argentina and Colombia. In recent years, he has focused increasingly on music education and acquisition in Venezuela and Cuba. He received a British Academy Research Development Award and undertook fieldwork in Venezuela in 2010-11 on the orchestral music program El Sistema, which resulted in the book El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (Oxford University Press, 2014). He was co-investigator on the three-year AHRC Beyond Text project Growing Into Music, for which he made a series of films about childhood music learning in Cuba and Venezuela. For further information, visit


Michele Banal graduated in Political Science at the University of Milan with a dissertation on jazz and the African-American civil rights movement. He holds a Masters in Ethnomusicology from SOAS, University of London, where he specialised in African music and in media production as research tool. Between 2010 and 2013 he worked as a filmmaker and editor for the project Growing into Music. He is now a London-based freelance filmmaker and radio producer, focusing on music research, ethnographic filmmaking and academic outreach. He is the filmmaker who documented the Mali-Cuba project, as well as having helped with logistics both in Mali and Cuba.


Lassana Diabaté is Mali’s most outstanding balafon (22-key xylophone) player – one of Africa’s most brilliant and creative contemporary musicians. He was born into a well-known griot family originally from neighbouring Guinea, and began playing balafon at the age of five, learning from his father, Djelisory Diabaté, a master player from Kindia (Guinea). Lassana combines extraordinary virtuoso technique drawn from growing up deep inside the griot tradition, with many years’ experience of performing on the world stage in different musical styles. He has a long professional career as accompanist to Mali’s top divas such as Babani Koné and Ami Koita. He has recorded with many of Mali’s leading musicians such as Toumani Diabaté, Salif Keita, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Kasse Mady Diabaté and Bassekou Kouyaté. He was a member of the Grammy-nominated collaboration Afrocubism. He has done collaborations with international artists such as Taj Mahal and most recently the Kronos Quartet across a number of genres including jazz, blues and Latin music. In 2013 Lassana became the musical director of Trio Da Kali, a newly formed trio of Malian griots whose aim is to showcase old repertoires of the Mande repertoire in a classical style going back to a period before Malian music went electric in the 1970s and 80s, but still using a contemporary voice. Since 2015, Lassana, under the direction of the Aga Khan Music Initiative, has been the curator of Mali’s National Museum’s concert series Jeudis musicaux des enfants, which gives a platform to Mali’s most talented musical youth. From 2009-12 he worked as musical guide and assistant on the award-winning Growing into Music in Mali film project, and he played a vital role in the Mali-Cuba project, coordinating the young Malian musicians during their performance in Bamako and travelling to Cuba with four of our young protagonists alongside the rest of the Mali-Cuba team.


Cary Diez is Vice President in charge of music at UNEAC (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba), in Havana. She plays a fundamental role in the project by coordinating and organising our Mali-Cuba activities in Havana and Matanzas.


World Circuit Records and Nick Gold have established their reputation by producing some of the finest and most successful world music albums of the past two decades, specialising in music from West Africa and Cuba. The label is best known for the Grammy Award winning Buena Vista Social Club project and a roster including Ali Farka Toure, Orchestra Baobab,Toumani Diabate and Oumou Sangare, amongst many others. Their latest release is an album featuring Trio Da Kali, whose musical director is Lassana Diabate, with the renowned Kronos Quartet. The album is called Ladilikan.