Songlines Music Awards Winner

Cross-Cultural Collaboration: AfroCubism

Album: AfroCubism (World Circuit)

AfroCubismBuy this issueClick to listen

AfroCubism will be presented with their Songlines Music Award at the Royal Albert Hall on June 27.

The story about how this Mali-Cuba concept album finally came to light - 14 years after the original idea - has been much documented since its release last autumn.

The failed attempt to gather together Malian musicians with their Cuban compatriots in 1996 resulted in the musical gem - and world music's biggest success story - Buena Vista Social Club.

AfroCubismBut, thanks to label boss Nick Gold's perseverance and unstinting belief in the idea, the album was finally recorded in Madrid in 2009. ‘After waiting so long, in the end it came together incredibly quickly and easily,’ reported Gold in our feature in #71.

Since then, the collective of stellar musicians from Mali - Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyaté, Djelimady Tounkara, Lassana Diabaté and Kasse Mady Diabaté, plus their Cuban counterparts Eliades Ochoa and Grupo Patria - have been delighting audiences around the world with a joyous set of Caribbean and West African songs.

The mutual respect between these masterful musicians is palpable on stage and their individual virtuosity comes through with solo moments from the key members of the group.

The Cuban singer-guitarist Ochoa, the undisputed leader of the group, stands centre-stage and keeps in check the mischievous, musical sparring between Toumani on his kora and the ngoni-wielding Bassekou.

If cross-cultural collaboration sounds like some music marketing concept, then rest assured, this album is far more classy and organic than many other hybrids.

The best description comes from Ochoa: ‘AfroCubism is more than a fusion… it's the merging of two such strong powers. It's the musical big bang.’

© Jo Frost