Bayaka Pygmies

The Bayake live in the dense forest watered by the upper Sangha and its tributaries. They spend about the year deep in the forest hunting and gathering. The other half they camp near the edge of the forest, where they supplement part-time hunting and gathering with chores for the villagers in exchange for manioc and iron, as well as money, with which they buy cigarettes, salt, sugar and mbakou (maize spirits). They hunt with nets, spears and crossbows (whose origine is obscure). Life at a Bayaka camp, though not without conflict, is characterized by an underlying serenity. Nowhere is this more evident than in their music.

  1. Balonyona on Geeda
    The Geeda is a small harp, often played while walking. Balonyana is the most talented geeda player in the camp.
  2. Song to celebrate the reappearance of the moon
    One of the many songs reserved for the monthly occasion, sung mostly by the woman.
  3. Mokonjo
    Joking music among the hunters, late at night around the fire
  4. Ceremony at Moapola
    More than 200 participants from three camps. During the ceremony a zengi (forest spirit) emerged from the forest to dance through the camp. Draped in long raffia fibres it whireled swiftly about, at times lunging at the pursuing dancers.
  5. Sung story
    A story about a forest animal
  6. An afternoon under the palm shelter
    To pass the hot afternoons in, the Bayaka built a palm shelter extension to my hut. This shelter became the meeting place for the whole camp in the idle hours of the afternoon. Often these gatherings turned into little concerts. In the selection prsented here, from one such typical afternoon, Zalogwé is persuaded to sing his new song. He is accompanied on the geeda by his friend Akété. Others tap out thythms and shout encouragment.
  7. Ceremony preceding the hunt
    Held the night before a large communal hunt. To ensure a succesful hunt the Bayaka invoke certain forest spirits, In the ceremony four appeared, each a giant leaf. Their strange falsetto voices and modulated cries can be heard in the recordings. The second excerpt featured a dialogue between one of the zengi and the Bayaka. The third excerpt is the song which accompanied the withdrawel of the zengi back into the depths of the forest.

Recored 1986, january/februari in the Central African rainforest by Louis Sarno.