SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Dr Elina Djebbari (King’s College London) - Music and Decolonisation in the Cold War: Cultural Diplomacy between Cuba and West Africa (1960s-1970s)



Date: 7 March 2018Time: 3:15 PM

Finishes: 7 March 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4429

Type of Event: Talk

In the frame of the Cold War and African independences in the 1960s, Cuba established diplomatic relationships based on cultural exchanges with newly independent African countries that adopted socialism. In this particular political framework marked by anticolonial ideologies, the paper will analyse the role of music as a key component of cultural decolonisation in Africa. 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 according to an anthropological approach.

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 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 and intellectual 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.

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