A Look at African Pygmy Music
My initial opinion when listening to African pygmy music for the first time was that I felt it was a strange and disorganized noise of random voices shouting and instruments playing without any type of identifiable pattern. It was very difficult for me to sit through and enjoy it.
I thought it was just as strange when I heard it in Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”, but when I listened to it in Madonna’s “Sanctuary” I only recognized it because it was pointed out and it was more vague than the other copycats.
I am trying to be as open minded as possible about some of the music we’ve had to study, so I began listening more closely to the pygmy music and realized that although it is spontaneous, it has its own organization of rhythm, harmony, and unity.
I was especially entertained at the Pygmy’s use of natural items to create instruments such as the mondumu and geedal ieta, but my personal favorite was the liquindi water drum.
When other musicians insert African pygmy music into their own mixes, I feel it takes away from the authenticity of the music, and quite frankly seems to be a ripoff. Baka Beyond sounds more like island music and takes away from the origin of the pygmy’s creation. I would have to question why they think adding electronics to natural sounds makes the music “better”. And I have to wonder how successful Deep Forest would have become had they not ripped off the pygmy’s own voices. Considering the pygmies are already fighting to keep the forests (their homes) they so love, why would anyone want to take away the pygmy’s musical heritage and use it to their own benefit? It seems selfish to me.