Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations – a new documentary


A new film documents a unique project bringing together children from two of the world’s most musical countries: Mali and Cuba.

The project “Mali-Cuba: Music Across Generations” in 2012 brought four children coming from multi-generational families of Malian musicians to Cuba, to meet, play and exchange musical knowledge with several Cuban children learning Afro-Cuban music. We follow the children in this first-of-a-kind musical and cultural exchange, as they engage in workshops, public performances, and simple child play.

The film is made by Michele Banal, documenting the project led by Lucy Durán (SOAS-University of London) and Geoff Baker (Royal Holloway). Well known musical anthropologist Lucy Duran is particularly interested in the role of oral/aural learning.

Using a single camera, it follows the daily encounters in Havana and Matanzas between four Malian children aged 7-14 (away from West Africa for the first time), and several children from celebrated Cuban musical families, as they explore each other’s cultures over a ten-day period in Havana and Matanzas. Tentative and shy in the beginning, with no common language, and very different repertoires and instruments (kora, balafon, kamalengoni, batá, congas, and voices), the children gradually find ways of communicating and sharing through gesture and dance.

In the process, we see some fine performances by rumba and batá groups (Muñequitos de Matanzas, Columbia del Puerto, Mordeya y sus raices) as well as by the Cuban and Malian children and their musical mentor, virtuoso balafon player Lassana Diabaté. As the days progress, the children become friends, and begin a real exchange, exploring commonalities such as clave, and eventually even swapping instruments and roles.

The film culminates in a touching grand finale featuring all the children at the newly refurbished Teatro Miramar in Havana.

Watch the film here

Read more about the project here