Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations

Award Holder

Dr Lucy Duran

Higher Education Institute

Department of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies

Project Summary

The proposed activities arise from work by the 'Growing into Music' research team, documenting and analyzing childhood music acquisition and transmission in oral musical traditions. Our proposal addresses the theme: 'Learning across and between the generations', by celebrating the historical connections that characterise Mali and Cuba's ongoing 'trans-Atlantic conversations'. 'Mali-Cuba: music across generations' focuses through events in Havana and Bamako in November 2011 on two countries with exceptionally strong international musical profiles and a long history of connections. Our research in these two countries is pointing towards ways in which the links (both historical and contemporary) between Cuba and Mali may be illuminated by a closer look at how children acquire musical skills and knowledge in both countries. We will explore, develop and promote such connections through live performance and workshops involving children who are participating in our project, and thereby realise a greater and more direct impact for our research than originally envisaged.

'Growing into Music' has established a highly productive relationship with Caridad Diez, vice-president of UNEAC, the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (the leading cultural institution in Cuba). Our Havana festival will take place in front of live audiences from Cuba and virtual audiences further afield via the internet, through the intervention of the UK record company World Circuit. We will bring four Malian children to Havana, with a parent and/or guardian, and film the encounter between them and Cuban children, at home and on stage, with the participation of their parents and teachers. In Mali, there is a long-established history of Mali-Cuba relations, with a large community of Cubans living and working there. We will present our research in Mali via a smaller event in November 2011, involving musicians, key people from the cultural sector, the local press, and wider audiences.

The aims of our proposal are to: stimulate cross-cultural awareness by bringing together young musicians from Cuba and Mali to observe each other's acquisition processes, learn together in informal workshops, and perform in public; to publicise our work, present our films and research in Havana and Bamako; film the results and incorporate a selection of this into our final output; provide outlets for and raise awareness of 'Growing into Music' via the music industry; inform audiences beyond academia of the significance of oral methods of training young children and exchanging of musical information across the generations. Our planned activities exemplify knowledge exchange; public engagement; dissemination and stimulation of new knowledge, as the project's researchers share ideas with and receive feedback from Cuban musicians and researchers, and as Cuban and Malian musicians study and perform together.

Our proposed festival exploits previously unforeseen pathways opened up by collaboration with Caridad Diez and UNEAC, who will be our Cuban partner; it projects this knowledge beyond the academic sphere in Cuba and Mali; and it encourages interactions and creative engagements between the project's researchers, Cuban and Malian musicians, cultural institutions in Havana and Bamako, and the UK record label World Circuit Records. The proposed activities will thus benefit a range of artists and institutions, as well as a wider audience at public music and film events, and we will document these benefits by filming and recording the festival in Havana and seminar in Bamako, and by making written records of discussions that take place and feedback that is offered. Our UK business partner will be World Circuit Records, who are particularly interested in the topic of inter-generational exchange and will disseminate information and output via the label's international publicity networks, bringing in audiences with an interest in Mali and Cuba from around the world.


Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.