Lucy Durán (Spanish nationality, resident in London) is Professor of Music at SOAS University of London. She has been researching music of the Mande peoples in Gambia, Senegal, Guinea and Mali for over four decades. Much of her work is practice-based research. This includes her award-winning films Growing into Music in Mali & Guinea which follow children in several leading griot families over three years as they learn kora, balafon, ngoni, song and dance.
Durán’s ethnographic publications address such topics as the kora, women singers of Mali, wassoulou music, the Bamana ngoni and its connections with the blues, concepts of musical mastery in Mande culture, producing music in the studio as research methodology, and the making of Cuba’s best-selling album, Buena Vista Social Club.
Durán is probably best known for the albums she has produced, winning three Grammy nominations and many awards with more than 23 albums by artists from Gambia, Mali, Guinea Bissau and most recently Mexico and Albania. She launched the solo careers of two of Mali’s most celebrated instrumentalists, Toumani Diabaté (kora), producing seven albums by him including Toumani & Sidiki (nominated for a Grammy in 2015), and Bassekou Kouyaté (ngoni), producing his first two albums, the second of which (I speak fula) received a Grammy nomination. She founded the ‘super griot group’ Trio Da Kali in 2012 to collaborate with the renowned Kronos Quartet, resulting in the award-winning album Ladilikan (2017) co-produced with Kronos’ musical director David Harrington and Nick Gold of World Circuit Records.
Durán’s most recent documentary film, on the endangered tradition of girls’ handclapping songs in Mali, TEGERE TULON- HANDCLAPPING SONGS OF MALI, was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered at their festival in San Francisco in June, 2019. In recognition of Durán’s work, Kronos inducted her into the Kronos Hall of Fame at the end of the festival.
Apart from her academic research and teaching, Durán has a long career as a radio broadcaster (she was regular presenter of BBC Radio 3’s flagship world music programme World Routes). She was consultant for ROOTS – the remake of the famous TV series – advising on Mandinka language, music and culture.
During 2015-16, with a grant from the British Academy Newton Advanced Fellowship, she supervised a multi-media project on Afromexican music from the Costa Chica, Oaxaca, resulting in a documentary film SOMOS NEGROS DE LA COSTA and a CD, FORONTO - AFROAXACA, which she produced with local musicians and two of the member of Trio Da Kali in a mobile studio on a farm outside Llano Grande. The album was released in 2019 in Mexico, 2019, and two tracks were selected by the Mexican government for their campaign to promote the 2020 census which would include Afromexicans for the first time.
Durán’s most recent album features a new ensemble of veteran musicians, Tirona AllStars, recorded in Tirana in December 2019, to celebrate Tirana’s 100th anniversary as capital of Albania. The album will be released in 2020.

Experience

  • 1993–present
    Professor, SOAS music department