The Music Of The Bayaka: Volume I


Please note: Unless otherwise stated, all albums are delivered as Mp3 digital downloads only. 

After purchase, you will receive an email notification with the proper download  link for your album. For other items, shipping options will be displayed during the checkout process.

Questions or comments?  Contact:


Recordist/Credit: Louis Sarno


Since 1984, Louis Sarno, an American born and raised in New Jersey, has lived with and recorded the music of the Bayaka and their surrounding habitats in the remote areas of the Central African Republic. During this period, Sarno reflects, "...I have grown familiar not only with the Bayaka, but also with the forest in which they live. Their music seems nothing less than a creation of the rain forest itself, its ultimate form of self-expression." Remove the voices of the Bayaka from this paradise of natural soundscapes, and you remove its soul.

Early one morning seven women went a short way from a recently established forest camp to gather mushrooms they had discovered the evening before. Mushroom gathering lends itself to lyrical accompaniment, for it is not strenuous and often takes place in the magical primary forest. The melodies are fragments of a boyobi ceremony sung the previous evening. These astonishing pure and powerful voices reverberate throughout the forest as the women yodel, using specially-acquired vocal techniques combined with the acoustics of the habitat to create chords with a single voice as notes hang in the air for long periods of time.

The mondum is an original Bayaka instrument much like a harp-zither. Typically played with the forefingers of both hands the instrument is usually placed over a pot to amplify the sound. It makes it splendidly suited for the acoustics of the forest. Most forest camps have at least one such instrument, but there are very few in what's called village camps. Adamo, the musician in this 1994 recording, is using a tiny coffee can instead of a cooking pot as a resonator. This allows him to play while walking through the forest, hence the song's title.

3. BOYOBI (Part 1, at spear-hunting camp)
The ceremony performed before net and spear hunts protects hunters from harm and represents the supreme musical artistry of the Bayaka. All members (women, men, and even children) sing creating a polyphony of stunning beauty and complexity, along with elaborate percussion. The discordant cries of the bobメ , the spirits who dance in boyobi, add another dimension to the music. Life in the forest becomes on long ceremony and the boyobi can last as long as a week. Because there are so many disparate groups (men, women, children, and those playing the role of spirits) spread throughout the forest, this music is particularly difficult to record in one piece.

A casual Bayaka affair, there is no regular wedding ceremony to celebrate the event. Typically an all night performance, the limboku is sung by the bride and an entourage of women as they wander slowly through the camp singing and dancing with highly charged sexual innuendo. This ceremony is strictly off limits to boys and men who are confined to their houses during this performance. This segment was the small part that Sarno was allowed to record.

Women's music, the yeyi (yodel) is performed to bring benediction on a camp or settlement. Typically it begins in the small hours of the morning with the yodels of a single woman, reinforced by the drinking of a special medicine, and who is soon answered by others. The main singer is a woman named Eloka.

7. BOYOBI (Part 2)
The ceremony has been performed over the period of several days, now. Dressed in a bewildering array of green phosphorescent body designs, the bob (high falsetto yodels) and whistles make up the acoustic theme of this part of the ceremony. Meanwhile, animals, headless creatures, even military-like figures with glowing shoulder pads appeared and vanished in the course of the night, dancing and charging about with reckless abandon in the profound darkness.

In the wee hours of the morning, when everyone had retired after a night of boyobi, Matubi sat up and strummed on his mondum, serenading our forest camp until shortly before dawn. He was joined on the stick percussion by Mitumbi and Mosio. Mabuti sings that one must not follow the path of jealousy, for it makes the heart evil.

9. BOYOBI (Parts 3 & 4)
Taken from the final night of the boyobi presented earlier, this was the last iteration of that music for over two weeks. The first song is a lovely rendition of what one might call the main theme of the Bayaka's 3-month forest sojourn. It is a very old melody. The second track begins with the falsetto screeches and rapid speech of the bob, who demanded that the women keep singing, for the bob's energy for dancing had yet to be exhausted. At the end, rhythmic cries dominate, creating a coda-like part of the boyobi called the esim that customarily follows each song. Phosphorescent figures during this dance sequence become truly spectacular.

When a woman has died, and after her burial, the women assemble to sing limboku, a farewell ceremony to the woman, reestablishing the natural and harmonious relationship between community and cosmos.

Shortly after dawn a group of five women set out from the forest camp to collect payu singing yeyi songs as they travel. Voices resonating and coalescing with the biophonies, the women always sing as they go off into the forest to gather water, join the men on a net hunt, or gather mushrooms.
©  2007 Wild Sanctuary.  All rights reserved.

This is a high-quality zipped album delivered in 192 kpbs MP3 format. This can be listened to on your home computer, burned to a CD, or carry it with you on your iPod or other MP3 player.