ACE’s Geoffrey Clarfield Doing Fieldwork in Africa

In 1962 Alan Lomax wrote:

“Perhaps no two peoples (Pygmies and Bushman), so far separated in space (3,000 miles), living in such different environments (jungle and desert), and belonging to different racial and linguistic groups, share so many stylistic traits . . . as far as Cantometric analysis is concerned, the styles, indeed, belong to a single family.”

With our encouragement, ACE’s Director of Research and Development, Geoffrey Clarfield traveled to meet Biaka Pygmies in the rain forests of Central Africa, to see if the old vocal repertoires Alan Lomax believed to be a baseline of human music are alive and well.

Goeffrey writes: “Not only are they both flourishing and changing but young Biaka are showing their musical genius through the development of a bardic Central African tradition of songs accompanied by stick zither and harps whose shapes can be found in Saharan Rock art and the walls of Ancient Egyptian tombs. To sit under the stars and see the forest canopy above you, hear the birds and mammals of the forest and to be regaled for hours and hours by virtouso Biaka Pygmy musicians is as good if not better than a concert at Carnegie Hall. The Biaka may be small in stature but they are still the giants of the African musical world”

When he returns in July, we will hopefully stream some of his field recordings on our web site. His trip is being facilitated by resident song hunter Louis Sarno who has spent twenty five years living and recording among the Biaka. Sarno’s archive is now being digitized at the Pitt rivers Museum in Oxford University.

Originally posted: June 26, 2012