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New Pygmy sounds: Orchéstre Baka Gbiné
January 14, 2013 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Those adventurous listeners among you who've explored some of the further musical reaches of our little planet might have heard, somewhere along the line, some of the amazing polyphony and yodeling styles of the Baka or the Aka Pygmies. The bewitchingly complex rhythmic and melodic interplay we find in these traditional musics is spellbinding and utterly unique, of course, but what are, say, Baka Pygmy musicians doing these days that's a little more, well, *modern*? I thought you'd never ask! Orchéstre Baka Gbiné are doing this.

Some of you familiar with the soukous music style from central Africa (originally popularized by bands such as TPOK Jazz and Orchestra Makassy) will hear the soukous influence in the linked Orchéstre Baka Gbiné song (Kopolo), but will also notice that the tune is counted in nine beats. And that is something quite unique in African pop. But hey, these folks make it look easy!

Here's more from the group:

Ima Gati
Mabita Bella
posted by flapjax at midnite (22 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those of you who remember crossover jazzman Herbie Hancock's 1973 classic Watermelon Man will recall the distinctive vocal/pan pipe whistle intro to the tune. That was directly inspired by Pygmy music.

(I was always sad when the whole "Pygmy" section faded out...)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:43 PM on January 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just wait till those French guys from Deep Forest find this.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:47 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just wait till those French guys from Deep Forest find this

Oh dear god, no.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:50 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ahh... That music makes me smile... Thanks!
posted by njohnson23 at 9:59 PM on January 14, 2013


absolutely terrific...I went straight to the 'Kopolo' vid without reading the whole post, and was surprised to find I could pick out the 9/8. magical stuff - thanks!
posted by j_curiouser at 10:04 PM on January 14, 2013


Nice! I remember hearing some of this music late at night on NPR.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:19 PM on January 14, 2013


Fantastic! I love soukous -- seeing Kanda Bongo Man in ~1990 was a lifetime highlight -- and I love anything in three (or six or nine).
posted by Fnarf at 12:12 AM on January 15, 2013


If you find it somehow/-where (karagarga was circualting a copy some time back), Thierry Knauff's film "Baka" (1995, b&w) is an unforgettable film to see and hear.
posted by progosk at 12:26 AM on January 15, 2013


The yodeling of the Baka is pretty great. I wish there was a clean copy without the voiceover about bewigged European art-music composers.
posted by stbalbach at 12:41 AM on January 15, 2013


This is fantastic, flapjax, thank you very much for posting it. I went to the Kopolo link without opening the rest of the post. I was trying to figure out what was going up with the bass line and discovered the odd measure. I thought "they make it look really easy", then I came back here and realized it was all mentioned in your post.

Also, that Kopolo video is some cool video.
posted by micayetoca at 2:07 AM on January 15, 2013


p.s. For anyone interested in people experimenting with that African style of yodeling (with beats, scratches and all), Zap Mama has good surprises waiting for you.
posted by micayetoca at 2:12 AM on January 15, 2013


Nobody tell Paul Simon.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:01 AM on January 15, 2013


So I'm assuming that Kopolo was recorded in a studio, because it sounds too clean to be out of doors like the video shows.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:14 AM on January 15, 2013


Interesting that the narrator in the first vid says the women are considered the more proper musicians, and then the band is entirely male except for the backing chorus.
posted by Peevish at 6:10 AM on January 15, 2013


Those of you who remember crossover jazzman Herbie Hancock's 1973 classic Watermelon Man will recall the distinctive vocal/pan pipe whistle intro to the tune. That was directly inspired by Pygmy music.

(I was always sad when the whole "Pygmy" section faded out...)


Yeah, that's how I always felt about that one Roots song. (If I remember right, it's the aforementioned Zap Mama on that one.)
posted by and so but then, we at 7:07 AM on January 15, 2013


Shhh...this is actually a trap designed to ensnare Paul Simon, the Deep Forest guys, Dead Can Dance, Enigma, Vampire Weekend, and Yeasayer all at the same time.

Once we've got them into the jungle, the snares and net traps will do their work.


Nobody tell any of them.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:53 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, TheWhiteSkull, when you set that trap, there was a cartoonist there to sketch it.

This record is really nice. I like the the timelines on it, and the guitar playing.

Also, there's a really interesting article called Pygmy Pop by Steve Feld that traces the "chain of imitation and inspiration" from a field recording, to Herbie Hancock, to Madonna's sampling of Herbie Hancock, and then on to Bill Evans, Zap Mama (pre-listen track 14) and Francis Bebey. The article has dense theoretical moments, but it is worthwhile, I think. Page 26 is the concluding section.
posted by umbú at 12:17 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, the song in that video is going to be in my head for weeks. Did you see that the lowest percussion sound is a guy striking the hollow buttress of a big tree?
posted by umbú at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you SO MUCH for this!

Wonderful... makes me feel all kinds of good.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:15 PM on January 15, 2013


It's very nice, thank you for this. The guitar music isn't half as complex as the singing though.

I was sure I'd read somewhere that the rainforest Pygmies were famed by the Ancient Greeks for their music but I looked just now in Colin Turnbull's book and couldn't find the reference. Found this though:
The earliest recorded reference was... a record of an expedition sent from Egypt in the Fourth Dynasty, some twenty-five hundred years before the Christian era, to discover the source of the Nile. In the tomb of the Pharaoh Nefrikare is preserved the report of his commander, Herkouf, who entered a great forest to the west of the Mountains of the Moon and discovered there a people of the trees, a tiny people who sing and dance to their god, a dance such as had never been seen before. Nefikare sent a reply ordering Herkouf to bring one of these Dancres of God back with him, giving explicit instructions as to how he should be treated and cared for, so that no harm would come to him.
(The Forest People, Colin Turnbull, Pimlico 1993 pg.20)
posted by glasseyes at 3:43 PM on January 15, 2013


So I'm assuming that Kopolo was recorded in a studio, because it sounds too clean to be out of doors like the video shows.

It was recorded in a studio in the rainforest in Cameroon. The Baka have an amazing exchange going with UK band Baka Beyond who get inspiration from Baka music and invest profits from album sales into building said rainforest studio among other things (Wikipedia).

I heard Baka Beyond at a folk festival in summer and then I met some of them and they let us listen to the Orchéstre Baka Gbiné CD. This post makes me so happy.
posted by yoHighness at 4:35 PM on January 15, 2013


"Watermelon Man" quotes from "Hindewhu" (Whistle Solo) by a group of Ba-Banzele tribesmen, recorded on an "Anthology of World Music" recording - http://www.amazon.com/Anthology-Of-World-Music-Ba-Benzele/dp/B0000003AO Amazing to listen to this and the Hancock track back to back.

Great to hear this new recording. There's pretty amazing music from Central African pygmies recorded by ethnomusicologists as well. i recommend:

Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest - http://www.folkways.si.edu/mbuti-pygmies-of-the-ituri-rainforest/world/music/album/smithsonian

Bayaka - the Extraordinary Music of the Babenzele Pygmies - http://www.amazon.com/Bayaka-Extraordinary-Babenzele-Pygmies-Sounds/dp/1559613130

And just in passing - anyone remember the role of Aka Pygmy music in Wim Wenders "Until the End of the World"?
posted by obruni at 7:43 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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