Workshop #1

After a short silence, here we are with another Mali-Cuba clip.
During their stay in Havana the four Malian children Rokia, , Salif, and Daniel met regularly with the Cubans Kevin, Lester and Josué for a series of music workshops at the Residencia Estudiantíl of the National School of Arts. During these encounters, facilitated by Lassana, Lucy and others, the children taught each other songs from their respective repertoires, shared instruments, and showed each other playing techniques and other “tricks”. Below is a short video taken during the first of these workshops. Hope you enjoy it!

Dance for the Orishas

Los Criollitos de Los Sitios is a youth ensemble based at the Casa de Cultura (House of Culture) of the central Havana neighbourhood of Los Sitios. Here you can see them perform a series of dances for the Orishas, the deities of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria.

Mali-Cuba jam at the Casa de Africa in Havana

On the 23rd of March the project Mali-Cuba was presented at the Casa de Africa in Havana. There, after a short performance by the Malian children and Lassana Diabaté, the audience assisted to the first spontaneous Mali-Cuba jam session, when young Kevin Dedeu and the drummers and dancers of the youth music group Los Criollitos de Los Sitios joined in with the Malians.

Update after Cuba

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A quick update after a long silence. We have been very busy with other aspects of our project and it is now time for some long-overdue news!

Our trip to Cuba was a success beyond expectation. Having never set foot outside their country before, the four Malian children proved to be brilliant travellers, and quickly adapted to life in Havana staying at the hall of residence for young ballet dancers. Under the watchful guidance of virtuoso balafon player Lassana Diabate, and performing on stage for only the second  time in their lives, they dazzled audiences with their musical skills and incredible professionalism. They were joined by many of the Cuban children who took part in our Growing into Music project, who also demonstrated astonishing musicality, especially given their very young age.

Malians and Cubans participated together in a series of music workshops, where they taught each other songs from their respective repertoires. Shy at first, by the end of the trip they all became great friends, overcoming language barriers and having loads of fun!

Mali-Cuba was presented in several venues in both Havana and Matanzas, and ended with a final showcase at the opening of the newly refurbished Miramar Theatre in front of an audience of several hundred children and their families. It was the culmination of ten days of exciting and unique exchange of musical experience and ideas between children of two continents, in which their musical growth was evident on a daily basis.

The four Malian children and Lassana Diabaté are now back in Mali, and of course we are all very worried about the current unstable situation in the country, following the military coup that happened only 12 hours after the children and Lassana had left Bamako. We are in touch with them and they are all well, with happy memories of their time in Cuba, but anxious about the unfolding events at home and their impact on the once vibrant music scene.

Watch this space, because starting from next week we will be regularly posting videos, pictures, and more stories from this truly unprecedented encounter.

Greetings from Havana!

Greetings from Havana!

The Mali-Cuba team has landed in Cuba for the final and most challenging part of our project. As we write, the four Malian children, accompanied by Lassana Diabaté are about to arrive in Havana airport, for what is their ever first trip outside Mali (see “about” section for more information).

The four children will spend 10 days in Cuba, and will be meeting many Cuban musicians their age, participating in music workshops with them, visiting the city (and going to the beach to see the ocean for the very first time!)…

Finally, the day before leaving again for Mali, the Malian and Cuban protagonists of our “Growing into Music” films will be together on the stage of the newly refurbished Teatro Miramar for a final concert that, we are sure, will be an unique and unforgettable experience for everybody.

Following is the programme (in both English and Spanish) of the activities planned. We are truly excited about what lies ahead, and will report extensively very soon!


22/03-5pm. Presentation of the research project and screening of the “Growing into Music” documentaries at the Conference of Musicology in the Casa de las Américas.

23/03-11am. Official inauguration of the Mali-Cuba project in the Casa de Africa.
5pm. Music workshop with Malian and Cuban children.

24/03-11am. Musical exchange with the group La Colmenita and meeting with UNICEF.
5pm. Music workshop with Malian and Cuban children.

25/03-9am. Trip to Matanzas to meet the young musicians of local community projects. Screening of the “Growing into Music” documentaries in the cinema of central Matanzas.

26/03-5pm. Trip to Regla to meet the children of the project Los Güiritos de San Cristóbal.

27/03-Day off. Trip to the beach.

28/03-4pm. Music workshop with Malian and Cuban children.

29/03-2pm. Screening of the “Growing into Music” documentaries and concert of Cuban and Malian children at UNEAC (Union of Cuban Writers and Artists)

30/03-3pm. Performance of Malian and Cuban children at the Arts Festival of the Instituto Superior de Arte. With El Romerillo, rumba musicians of the project En Clave de Rumba and students of the Instituto Superior de Arte.

8.30pm. Inauguration of the Teatro Miramar: gala event. Performance of Lassana Diabaté from Mali with Eliades Ochoa from Cuba.

31/03-2.30pm. Presentation of the projects Growing into Music and Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generation at the Teatro Miramar. Screening of the “Growing into Music” documentaries and final concert of the Cuban and Malian children who took part in the project.

01/04. The four Malian children and Lassana Diabaté leave Cuba.


22/03-5pm. Presentación del proyecto de investigación y documentales en el “Colóquio de Musicología” en la Casa de las Américas.

23/03-11am. Inauguración oficial en Casa Africa. Recorrido por el Centro Histórico.
5pm. Talleres / ensayo en la residencia estudiantil.

24/03-11am. Intercambio con la compañía La Colmenita y directivos de la UNICEF en la Sede de la Colmenita, Vedado
5pm. Talleres / ensayo en la residencia estudiantil.

25/03-9am. Viaje a Matanzas para intercambio con niños de proyectos comunitarios de la provincia. Coordinado por la Dirección de Cultura Comunitaria de la UNEAC en Matanzas.

26/03-5pm. Visita a Regla para compartir con niños cubanos del proyecto, Los Güiritos de San Cristóbal, coordinado por el CIDMUC.

27/03 Día libre. Playa.

28/03-4pm. Taller / ensayo en la Residencia Estudiantil.
5.30pm puerta abierta a los estudiantes de la Residencia.

29/03-2pm. Presentación de documentales “Creciendo dentro de la música”, y actuación de niños de Mali y cubanos en la Unión de escritores y Artistas de Cuba. Proyectos comunitarios de la Casa de Cultura de Los Sitios, por el CNCC.

30/03-3pm. Presentación de niños de Mali y rumberos cubanos en el Festival de las Artes del Instituto Superior de Arte, con El Romerillo, rumberos del proyecto En Clave de Rumba, de la UNEAC y estudiantes del ISA.

8.30pm. Estreno del Teatro Miramar: noche gala. Actuación de Lassana Diabaté (balafón) con Eliades Ochoa.

31/03-2.30pm. Presentación del proyecto total “Growing into Music” (Creciendo Dentro de la Música).

01/04. Salida de Cuba.