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The Pygmies are a broad group of people who live in Central Africa, especially in Congomarker, Central African Republicmarker and Cameroonmarker. Music is an important part of Pygmy life, and casual performances take place during many of the day's events. Music comes in many forms, including the spiritual likanos stories, vocable singing and music played from a variety of instruments.

The African Pygmies are particularly known for their usually vocal music, usually characterised by dense contrapuntal communal improvisation. Simha Arom (2003) says that the level of polyphonic complexity of Pygmy music was reached in Europe in the 14th century, yet Pygmy culture is unwritten and ancient, some Pygmy groups being the first known cultures in some areas of Africa. Music permeates daily life and there are songs for entertainment as well as specific events and activities.

Formal Classification

Formally Pygmy music consists of at most only four parts, and can be described as an, "ostinato with variations," or similar to a passacaglia, in that it is cyclical. In fact it is based on repetition of periods of equal length, which each singer divides using different rhythmic figures specific to different repertoires and songs. This interesting case of Ethnomusicology and Ethnomathematics creates a detailed surface and endless variations of not only the same period repeated, but the same piece of music. As in some Balinesemarker gamelan music, these patterns are based on a super-pattern which is never heard. The Pygmies themselves do not learn or think of their music in this theoretical framework, but learn the music growing up.

Pygmy styles include liquindi, or water drumming, and instruments like the bow harp (ieta), ngombi (harp zither) and limbindi (a string bow).

Western Popularization

Colin M. Turnbull, an American anthropologist, wrote a book about the Pygmies, The Forest People, in 1965. This introduced Pygmy culture to Western countries, many of whose inhabitants were intrigued by the seemingly-simple lifestyle they led. Turnbull claimed that the Pygmies viewed the forest as a parental spirit that could be communicated with via song.

Some of Turnbull's recordings of Pygmy music were commercially released, and inspired more ethnomusicological study, such as by Simha Arom, a French-Israeli who recorded a kind of whistle called hindewhu, and by Mauro Campagnoli, an Italian ethnomusicologist who studied in depth the musical rituals and instruments of Baka Pygmies, also by taking part into their secret rite of initiation. Some tracks were then used by Bill Summers, Herbie Hancock's percussionist, in the song "Watermelon Man," from the album Head Hunters (see hocket).

In 1992, the popularization of Pygmy music spread with the release of Eric Mouquet and Michel Sanchez's Deep Forest. Though the fusion of New Age spirituality with sampled Pygmy music and soft techno was heavily criticized by music purists, the album was a multi-million selling success. Soon after its release, controversy continued amid accusations that none of the money made from recording was given to the Pygmy performers. Despite the controversy, a percentage of the proceeds from each album were donated to the Pygmy Fund set up to aid Zairemarker's pygmies.

Discography



Further reading

  • Abram, Dave. "Sounds From the African Rainforest". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 601-607. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0


See also

Pygmy groups

Researchers who studied Pygmy music:

External links




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