SOAS University of London

SOAS recognised for bringing world music to the masses in UK universities ‘Best Breakthroughs List’

6 December 2018

SOAS University of London has today been named in the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on bringing world music to the masses.

The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign, supported by double Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington, to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.

Since the 1960s, SOAS has played a major role in bringing world music into mainstream awareness in the UK.

SOAS provides the largest centre in Europe for the study of music from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and their diasporas. Undergraduate studies include a BA in Global Popular Music, and Masters in Global Creative and Cultural Industries.

Many staff and students are involved in professional performance, composition and music production, and have received international awards and Grammy nominations. The SOAS Concert Series has established itself over more than a decade as the public face of music at SOAS. It's one of the key places to go for some of the most interesting and varied multicultural music in London today, with consistently high quality performances and a great concert atmosphere. SOAS is also home to the Jewish Music Institute, an independent Arts organisation, which aims are to bring Jewish musical culture – historical and modern – to the mainstream of British cultural, academic and social life.

Roots 6

Above: Kora lesson. SOAS Undergraduate Music student Daisy Burt (left, with kora) studying Mande music on location in Bamako, capital of Mali in January 2017, with leading Malian singer Hawa Kasse Mady Diabaté (middle) and Lafia Koné on guitar.

The School is also home to a range of accomplished performers who are teaching music at the School, including Sanju Sahai, one of the finest and most sought after Tabla players of his generation, who recently performed at the Barbican where he was described as a “true child prodigy” and Sahana Bajpaie, a professional singer of Rabindrasangeet (Songs of Rabindranath Tagore) and Bengali folk songs, who was awarded the Bengal’s Pride Award for her contribution to arts and culture. In 2017, students and staff from the Department of Music at SOAS performed at the opening of the Going Global Conference 2017, hosted by the British Council, which was held in Westminster.

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Toumani Diabaté and Sidiki Diabaté

Above: One of SOAS's most watched YouTube videos features SOAS Honorary Graduate and internationally acclaimes Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté playing a kora duet with his son Sidiki Diabaté at the SOAS Graduation Ceremony in 2015.

SOAS expertise was called upon to help ensure historical accuracy in the remake of the legendary ROOTS TV series. Ethnomusicologist Dr Lucy Durán, and kora player Kadialy Kouyate worked with the celebrated film director Phillip Noyce as advisors on the music, language and culture the first two episodes.

SOAS’s alumni community of musicians includes Nabihah Iqbal, who the Guardian described as “a trailblazer for Asian women in rock” and sārangī player and vocalist Amrit Kaur Lohia, specialising in Punjabi folk, jazz and soul, who performed at Glastonbury Festival last year.

Amrit Kaur Lohia

Above: Amrit Kaur Lohia

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics.”

“The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”