Seize the Dance: The BaAka of Central Africa

Louis Sarno, an American original who lived for 30 years among Bayaka Pygmies in the Central African rainforest and recorded their polyphonic music more completely than any audio adventurer or ethnomusicologist could dream of, died April 1, 2017 in New Jersey, where he was born. In his memory, we bring you this encore Hip Deep program. Read more of Banning Eyre’s tribute to Louis Sarno here.


This program tells the tale of a remarkable journey among the forest people of the Central African Republic. The polyphonic, hocketing vocal style of this region’s forest peoples (Pygmies) is one of the most singularly beautiful musical expressions in Africa, one that has entranced outsiders since the time of the pharaohs. Ethnomusicologist Michelle Kisliuk has spent nearly 25 years immersing herself in this music, and wrote a landmark book about the lives and music of the BaAka people in the Central African Republic. Kisliuk believes deeply in the performance experience–learning by doing–and this program will initiate listeners into one of the most enchanting and mysterious musical practices in Africa. The program also deals with the BaAka’s problematic encounters with neighboring ethnic groups, Christian missionaries, and modernity in general.

For more on the music of the Pygmies, click here.