Growing into Music

Since 2009 I have been working as co-investigator on “Growing into Music,” a film-based project (funded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s “Beyond Text” scheme) that documents and analyzes how children learn music in oral musical traditions.

I have been working with a small team of ethnomusicologists, led by Lucy Durán of SOAS and BBC radio’s World Routes, which has been exploring the activities of young musicians from various cultures in Latin America, South and Central Asia, and Africa. We have been conducting a detailed exploration of the routes via which children become musicians, beginning with passive exposure in infancy and culminating in adolescent participation in public performance. The aim of the project is to present an analysis of oral/aural transmission, a phenomenon that is fundamental and intrinsic to the majority of musics around the world.

My focus has been on Cuba, where I have been researching how children learn rumba and religious music in Havana, Matanzas and Güines; and Venezuela, where I worked with young musicians learning música llanera and classical music (the latter through El Sistema) in Guanare, Portuguesa, and small surrounding towns in the plains of Los Llanos. Although music is my principal focus, my project has inevitably spilt over into the realm of dance.

I am currently finishing a series of long and short ethnographic films that present the results of this project. The Cuba films can now be viewed here – the Venezuela films will be available on the same site in mid-2013.

Some of my films have already been shown at the Havana Film Festival, La Linea Festival (London), the “Latin America 2011” trade union conference (London), Oxford University, the National Museum (Bamako, Mali), and several venues in Cuba.

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