Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Song From The Forest

Song From The Forest - A film by Michael Obert. Selected Recordings of Bayaka Music by Louis Sarno.

Gruenrekorder. Gruen 150. CD + booklet.

Let us venture into the Central African rainforest which is where Louis Sarno found himself after hearing the music of the Bayaka Pygmies playing on his radio one night. And off he goes on what must have been an exciting and daunting journey. Twenty five years later Sarno is an accepted member of the community and has a son called Samedi. The film ‘Song From The Forest’ recounts how Sarno brought his son back to New York, from one jungle to another. What we have here is the soundtrack and but a small representation of the 1,500 hours worth of recordings that Sarno has made of the Bayaka Pygmies unique music.

And they do like to make music. When they pass a gooma tree they slap its exposed buttressed roots, when the women bathe they slap the water to make water drums, when they go into the forest they mimic chimpanzees in mock gorilla hunting games, they play flutes, bow harps, they sing laments, greetings and farewells and by the sounds of it have a good time in the process.

Listening to Song From The Forest you are struck by the purity of it all. An hour of this CD will cleanse your mind of years of commercial radio. Its the purity that William Bennet speaks of when he says that the sound of two African’s banging rocks together has the same intensity of a Whitehouse performance. You can hear that in the tree drumming where the driving polyrhythms are joined by a female vocalist who’s breathy utterances give the piece an air of [probably unintended] menace. ‘Earth Bow is another remarkable piece in which a sapling is bent with a piece of twine thats then plucked, a rainforest double bass, as ever accompaniment is in the shape of hand made percussion. ‘The Flutes We Hear No More’ is the sound of two duetting flautist, the flutes now destroyed and gone forever. The CD is bookended by both a greeting and a farewell. The Yeyi-Farewell is a haunting dirge that showcases the Bayaka’s penchant for polyphonic vocals, in-between the coughs and the cicadas emerges a lonesome and yearning voice.  

As well as the Bayaka there are pure forest recordings and dialogue from Sarno recounting the story of someone he knew who could walk into the forest and live like a king on the food he caught and gathered. An amazing adventure and an amazing story. Makes not to self to see film.


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