Saturday’s Endangered Music: The BaAka Pygmies of Cameroon

Some of the most beautiful and emotionally affecting singing I know of comes fro the BaAka Pygmies of Cameroon, who yodel polyrhythmic songs of love and respect for the forest that gives them life:

DAKAR (AlertNet) – An increase in sea level and a drop in the quantity of rainfall linked to climate change could destroy Cameroon’s biodiversity, disrupt businesses and uproot hundreds of thousands of people in the west-central African nation, Cameroon Tribune newspaper reported on Thursday.


Some ethnomusicologists believe this yodeled polyphonic music may be a remnant of the earliest music of our species. It certainly carries the resonance of antiquity, of having lived forever in the forest.

Ndeke, Ndia, Sangoweh and Carlos play music while the kids join in. More at

Photos of the Baka Forest People in the Cameroon rainforest.
Soundtrack is from “Baka in the Forest” at

A people of hunter-gatherers, Baka Pygmies live in the rainforest of Cameroon, Gabon and Congo, together with various peoples of bantu farmers, with whom they exchange goods and have a problematic symbiotic relationship.

BaAka water drumming

Naturally, these peoples are going to feel the brunt of climatic disruptions in countless ways:

For the Baka community, climate change disrupts the seasonal cycle, prolongs the dry season, reduces precipitation, and dries up water sources. These changes have impacts on their activities due to loss of seed, bad harvests, scarcity of animal life, emergence of new insect pests, and the disruption of fruit tree production. Socio-economic impacts include diminished harvests from agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering, the undermining of food self-sufficiency, poor revenues and an increase in water-related illnesses. The Baka have not remained passive in the face of these various changes. Quite to the contrary, they have developed certain adaptation measures such as : replacing crop varieties that fail, placing snares close to water sources, selecting crops that are sun-resistant, or the gathering and trading of non-ligneous forest products, etc. This said, their adaptation opportunities and capacities are hampered by limited resources, a lack of appropriate technologies and above all, a lack of access to information.


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