Monday, December 20, 2010

BaAka Pygmies go live on Afropop

Well, the first program of the new Hip Deep season is out in the world. "Seize the Dance: The BaAka of Central Africa," aired this past weekend and will be available for on-demand streaming next week. This was an epic production for us. Not only is the program itself quite beautiful and provocative, our companion online offerings are spectacularly rich, especially the video components. Click here for pygmy links.

MIchelle Kisliuk, Justin Mongosso
We also produced a video of Michelle Kisliuk teaching a BaAka song, "Makala," to a crew of golden-throated (more or less) New Yorkers.  This video is still in progress and will reach a final form within the next few weeks.  But it's already quite a treat.  Kudos to our tireless video editor Erich Woodrum for pulling together such a fine first edit in record time!

A few random thoughts on completing this most satisfying production.  First, Herbie Hancock's
"Watermelon Man" still kicks ass.  Awesome track, though he really should have credited his pygmy source.  Deep Forest sounds rather dated by comparison, but its best tracks do pre-figure the traditional music club remix technique that has since bloomed into its own mini-genre.  Also, the Rounder release Africa: The Ba-benzele Pygmies and Ellipsis Arts's "Bayaka" The Extraordinary Music of the Babenzele Pygmies are two of the most fabulous and listenable African field recordings to be found.   This music in general has surprised me with its holding power.  I've listened to hours and hours of it over the past couple of months, and it has not tired me out.  It is a rare example of a sound that conveys an entire world to the listener.  Our program deals in part with the "utopian" effusions of pygmy admirers over the ages--and the dangers in such idealization--but I must say, listening to these enchanting sounds, especially the voices, such over-the-top enthusuasm is understandable. 

All for now.  Hope some of you do try singing "Makala" at home after watching our video.  Check it again in a few weeks for the final edit.  And share your impressions and stories with us.  Meanwhile, Hip Deep sets its sights on Central and South America.... and the Cumbia diaspora.  Stay tuned!

Banning Eyre
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