Nzamba Lela (Aka Pygmees)

Nzamba Lela (Aka Pygmees)

BandFolkWorld

Biography

“Nzamba Lela”
The Aka Pygmies Musicians

Nzamba Lela is a group of fyfteen musicians from the Aka clan in the Lobaye forest of the Central African Republic. Nzamba Lela has performed in Europe and in festivals throughout Africa. In 2001, the group toured France and Switzerland for three weeks and performed in France and Germany and at a Brazilian festival in Salvador de Bahia, curated by Gilberto Gil.

The Pygmies are known as one of the oldest populations on the African continent. The ancient Egyptians thought that they were particularly gifted in music and dance, and as such, the Pygmies were often members of the pharaoh’s court. The Aka (singular Moaka) belong to one of the three groups of Pygmies found in Central Africa. They live in the southwest of the country in the Lobaye region, a forest zone particularly dense and intersected with stretches of swamps. They form family encampments including parents, children, and grandchildren, groups of thirty to forty people organized in a democratic community.

Not too long ago, the Pygmies were completely nomadic, living in the equatorial forest, leaving only periodically to trade with neighboring villages. The forest provided all their other needs. Today, the Pygmies reside in the forest only during the rainy season, about half the year. There, several family encampments join to organize the community hunting parties. They also use these gatherings to form matrimonial alliances between encampments. During the dry season, the Aka form small encampments on the borders of the forest near other villages with which they have a relationship for trading their services in exchange for modest material goods. When the rainy season begins again, the entire encampment returns to the forest.

The Pygmies’ music is distinguished by the practice of highly elaborate vocal polyphony. Upon hearing a choir of Pygmies sing, one has the impression of an extraordinary intertwining of voices and vocal timbres, alternating between falsetto and regular voice. In this fusion, where complete freedom seems to reign, a rigorous organization is present. In spite of their preeminence in singing, the Pygmies do not neglect other musical instruments. However, because of their nomadic lifestyle, these instruments are as light as they are few, in order to be easily carried with them.

For the Pygmies music is closely linked to their social and religious life. Each song is linked to a particular social function. The musical event, the type of dance that goes with it, the percussive formula, and the length of each musical piece reflect a specific social function of the Aka people. These include essential economic activities; the preparation for the hunt; daily life, children’s sung games, dances of rejoicing after a successful hunt, and dances to entertain on nights with a full moon. The Aka musicians of Nzamba Lela present a unique glimpse of an endangered music that is integrally connected to their ancient way of life and the fragile forest in which they live.

Discography

Anthologie des Pygmees Aka - OCORA 1987
Original Release Date: Jan 3 1996
En projet CD à paraitre Buda Music