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Malian band eyes new fame after 50 years

After 50 years out of the limelight, one of the bands who pioneered mixing Cuban and West African beats is finally back on stage.

Las Maravillas de Mali came together in the 1960s during the height of the Cold War, when seven young musicians from Mali were sent to Havana by their government to study music.

Their first record was a huge hit back in Mali and the band’s track “Rendez-Vous Chez Fatimata” was played across the African continent.

You learn Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Bach in school. But you learn Cuban music on the streets with the musicians.

But the group disappeared following a coup in Cuba, and the fame they hoped for back home in Mali also never came.

At a recent show at the Barbican Centre in London, the ensemble received a rupturous welcome, playing from their new record ‘Africa Mia’.

While the Malian-Cuban band now features only one of the original band members, Boncana Maiga, the group is generating interest, especially as the new line up features one of Africa’s best-selling singers, Mory Kante.

The group’s blending of Cuban and African beats is attracting attention because of the history of Cuban music, which has been influenced by the rhythms and songs brought over by West African slaves.

Las Maravillas de Mali hopes its new album and the tour it’s currently on will help to revive an ensemble forgotten for half a century.

The band’s story is also being turned into a film.