A post-colonialist meditation
Mix by Continuo
Total time 47:21
My father served as an officer in the French army at a time when France was a colonialist country – he’s the white man on the photo above. Inspired by his photo album from when he lived in Cameroon, Congo and Ivory Coast in the late 1950s to 1960, this mix attempts to re-create his sound world and environment from various recordings of nature, animals, dialects, music and songs. As well as dreaming about his sound environment, I felt like meditating on an era when France was administrating several West African countries as colonies. Perhaps as a consequence, I tend to consider most “ethnic music” recordings as colonialist artifacts, at best patronizing, if not mere pilfered music. Yet, I hope the mix also celebrates the beauty of dialects, voices and song art of a few Central African countries.
/ / / / T R A C K L I S T / / / /
José Pivin – various excerpts from Opéra du Cameroun (+ several mbira interjections from Shona Mbira Music, see below). Based on environmental and nature recordings collected during a trip to Cameroon in 1976, Opéra du Cameroun was published by Ocora (Office de COopération RAdiophonique) in 1978 by French radio producer Jean Pivin.
Shona Mbira Music – Nhemamusasa by Hakurotwi Mude (voice+mbira), Cosmas Mayaga (mbira), Ephram Mutemasango (hosho). LP released in 1977, recorded 1975 in Salisbury (now Harare). One of the many extraordinary recordings made by Paul Berliner in Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) for Nonesuch’s Explorer series documenting the mbira music of the Shona people (see also below The Soul of Mbira).
Sahel Sounds – Belibul 1 + VOSIM Sound Example v2. Humming and babbling song by children, recorded by Christopher, who maintains the blog Sahel Sounds from his home in Mauretania. Contrasted with electronic bleeps from Tom over at SDiY.org. These sounds emulate Werner Kaegi‘s VOice SIMulator program.
Musiques Africaines – Chant Patri pour la Place Mortuaire (or Mourning Patri tribe song). + noises from Opéra du Cameroun. Part of a series titled Musique de Tous Les Temps (Music of all times), this book with accompanying 7 inch record, published in France in 1967, is an introduction to traditional music of Central African Republic.
Robert Arnaut – Mix d’ambiances africaines, from the Une Afrique En Radio 3xCD set produced by Thomas Baumgartner, released by Frémeaux & Associés, 2010. Robert Arnaut has been a radio producer on French national radio since 1953. He made many trips to West and Central Africa. His recordings focus on interviews, religion, social life and (as is the case here) ambiance and field recordings.
Listen to Africa – Island Waves + The pirogue to Orango, recorded in Guinea-Bissau’s Bijagos archipelago. The Listen to Africa website documents a 2-year bicycle trip through Africa by British Rebecca Sumner and Huw Williams from 2009 to 2011. From their archive of field recordings.
David Monacchi – short loop from Sounds from the Bai Hokou forest + sound effects (a lot!). David Monacchi maintains the Ear to the Earth website to document his high resolution field recordings in Central African Republic in 2009, among other trips.
Robert Arnaut – lullaby by two Aka pygmy children (from Mix d’ambiances africaines in Une Afrique En Radio).
Robert Arnaut – Rituel du Mbwiti (or Mbwiti ritual) + short sample of metallic instruments from Niger – Musique des Griots, Ocora, 1964. The secret Mbwiti or Bwiti ritual is an animist initiation ceremony which takes place in a dedicated hut and involves narcotics. The Musique des Griots LP is one of the masterpieces of the entire Ocora series.
Jean Rouch – Cocorico Monsieur Poulet. The title song from the Jean Rouch film of the same name, released 1974, a road trip across Niger.
Chasseurs Pygnées – Women’s Song with musical bow. From a rare 1982 LP on the French Selaf-Orstom label, a state funded ethnomusicologist organism based in Paris. The first side features 15mns of animal imitations and decoys by Pygmy hunters in the forest, but this excerpt is a more peaceful welcome back song to celebrate the return of the same hunters to the village. Recorded in Central African Republic, 1975-79.
The Soul of Mbira Nyamoropa Yevana Vava Mushonga, by Muchatera Mujuru, voice and mbira + crickets from Opéra du Cameroun. Another Paul Berliner stellar release from 1973, this disc introduces several mbira virtuosos, but this poignant song is played by a very old man on a specially low-tuned instrument.
. . . .
Below: some of the records used