Keynote Speaker Lucy Durán at the Dutch Jazz and World Music Meeting

The second of the two keynote speakers at the Dutch Jazz and World Music Meeting 2012 was was Lucy Durán. She developed interesting, open-ended questions, directly drawing on her own extensive and diverse work in the roles of music ethnographer, specialist in the music of Mali, record producer and BBC radio presenter.

“The responsibility to tradition (s) – What are they in our industry?” was the title of a slide. She drew attention to the sense of duty to uphold and preserve – often threatened / dying –  indigenous musical traditions, but she  gave equal prominence to what actually happens, that the World music movement develops and valorises the tradition, by bringing into existence new music which draws on it. The act of bringing the music to Western audiences and developing another community around it changes it, putting it into very different contexts to those in which it grew.

Fusion is an area in which Durán has worked as producer, notably on Kulanjan, a highly successful collaboration between Taj Mahal And Toumani Diabate. Nevertheless, she described fusion as “not where I’m most comfortable”, and invoked the caricature of a rootless all-purpose band KWOMUBA, an acronym for the “Komposite African World Music Band”. Since it has no roots, such bands, she felt, were creations of the moment, and really shouldn’t survive.  Durán remembered that Ali Farka Touré used to pronounce the word “TRADIXTION”  and in doing so brought forward an ambivalence towards it which is  fundamental in world music.  To read on… Duran’s biography/ obituary of Touré is fascinating. Packed with detail about his life, it examines the same conflicting trends which she continues to think through so eloquently, and which she broadened out in this Amsterdam talk.

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