Sunday, July 8, 2018

Musique Pygmée et Musique Nègre – Barclay 86.019 
– recorded by Claude Huchin, the Oubangui-Congo Expedition, 1955 (LP)

The Pygmy people of Central Africa – living in the equatorial forest of the two Congos, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon and Zambia – are some of Africa's earliest inhabitants, a hunter-gatherer civilization that some believe dates back 50,000 years.

This rare LP of music collected in 1955 along the Ubangui river, between the current Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (aka Congo-Kinshasa), showcases the fascinating and spellbinding music of the Babinga Pygmies, featuring vocal polyphony, yodeling, drums and harp zithers. This intense, abstract music lies at the very heart of the Pygmy collective identity and is an integral part of their daily hunting rites and magic and religious practices (Side A). Side B features music from their sedentary Bantu neighbors established near the river.

Les pygmées d'Afrique centrale – qui vivent notamment dans la forêt équatoriale des deux Congo, en République Centrafricaine, au Cameroun, au Gabon et en Zambie – sont parmi les premiers habitants de l'Afrique, une civilisation de chasseurs-cueilleurs vieille de 50 000 ans!

Ce disque rare de musique recueillie en 1955 le long du fleuve Oubangui, entre l'actuelle République Centrafricaine et la République Démocratique du Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), présente la musique fascinante et envoûtante des Pygmées Babinga faîte de polyphonies vocales, de yodels, accompagnée de tambours et de cithares. Cette musique intense et abstraite est au cœur même de l'identité collective pygmée et fait partie intégrante de leurs rites de chasse et de leurs pratiques magiques et religieuses (face A). La face B présente la musique de leurs voisins bantous installés le long du fleuve



Website in English and Italian:

Recommended Pygmy music:
Music of the Rainforest Pygmies: Historic Recordings of Colin Turnbull CD LYR-7157 Pygmies of the Ituri Rainforest Folkways SFW 40401
Cameroon: Baka Pygmy Music UNES 08029

Photograph below is from Man's Earliest Music: The World of Music by Richard Carlin, Facts On File, 1987:


  1. This LP is 63 years old and is still being enjoyed and studied today. I have CDRs that I burnt 10 years ago that are unusable and music files on 3.5inch "floppy disks" from the 1990s that my children wouldn't even recognize as something having to do with a computer. It's simply amazing to me that we have such a large library of music on vinyl which is still accessible to us.

    1. Hi Richard. This LP is a rarity and one of the very few recordings dating before the 60s capturing the Pygmy People in their untouched natural environment. They are subject of much fascination with their hunter-gathering ways so removed from what we consider "civilization" despite their elaborate culture and abstract music.
      They interacted with their Bantu neighbors, who admired their legendary hunting skills and came to see them for their healing powers and deep knowledge of the forest. They also greatly feared their magical powers, reinforced by the fact that their diminutive size evokes the manifestation of elemental forces or spirits as “little people,” like elves, sprites, gnomes so prevalent in the traditional African psyche and belief systems.
      Like you rightly point out we have so many fantastic recordings at our disposal. It's all uncharted territory that we should look at more closely before wanting to fly to Mars or taking the mystery out of things with purely quantitative data like geolocation etc.