A song to summon rainforest spirits


The series starts on Monday 18 March at 13.45 on BBC Radio 4. Episode two on Tuesday 19 March features a great sound from the Pitt Rivers Sound Archive – Bayaka pygmies preparing for a ‘net hunt’.

A chorus of women sing to entice the bobé forest spirits out to bless the hunters. The bobé assume a variety of forest forms, such as leaves and trees, and sometimes appear as glowing animal shapes that shimmer in the dark with phosphorescent mould. When they are satisfied that the group’s singing is good, they may bless the hunt with a symbolic spitting sound.

The recording was made by Louis Sarno – who left New Jersey in 1985 armed with a tape recorder and a one-way ticket to the Central African Republic… and never came back. The Louis Sarno collection is curated by the Pitt Rivers Museum (University of Oxford) and consists of more than 1,000 hours of Bayaka music and soundscapes.


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