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Musical Dialogues in the Cold War: Cultural Diplomacy between Cuba and West Africa (1960s-1970s)

Dr Elina Djebbari, King’s College London

Wednesday 24 January at 5.30 pm

Based on fieldwork and archives research in Cuba and Mali, the paper will address the political and musical issues revealed by the transnational journeys of Malian and Cuban musicians during the Cold War. In the light of the cultural exchanges initiated between Cuba and newly independent socialist African countries, the role of music as a key component of cultural diplomacy will be explored, particularly through the cultural conventions signed between Cuba and several African countries in the 1960s. On the one hand, it looks at the creation of the band Las Maravillas de Mali by young Malian sent to Cuba to get trained in music in the 1960s. On the other hand, the tours made in Africa from the 1970s by famous Cuban orchestra Orquesta Aragón will complement the analysis grid of these transatlantic political exchanges. Not only the paper will explore the great popularity of Cuban music in Africa and especially how it contributed to the development of an African musical modernity but will also focus on the (re)creation of closeness between Africa and the Caribbean during Independence era marked by Negritude and Pan-Africanism intellectual movements. By taking into account the intertwined musical journeys of Las Maravillas de Mali in Cuba and the Orquesta Aragón’s tours in West Africa, different stratum of musical circulations and individual trajectories throughout the Black Atlantic will be unveiled, revealing the role of political dynamics peculiar to the postcolonial context in the history of a transatlantic musical globalisation.

Elina Djebbari is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at King’s College London for the ERC funded project Modern Moves led by Prof Ananya Kabir. Her research project investigates the ‘return’ of Afro-Caribbean music and dance practices in Africa. Her PhD in Ethnomusicology from EHESS (Paris) dealt with the national cultural policies and the heritage process using traditional music dance performances in Mali, throughout the National Ballet, the private dance companies and the state-sponsored festival Biennale Artistique et Culturelle.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://djebbari.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom