Chris Berry & the Bayaka of Yandoumbe Listen…OKA!
Published Jan 29, 2012Listen…OKA! is the soundtrack to the Lavinia Currier directed movie, OKA! It's loosely based on the life of American ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno (Kris Marshall), who studied the music of the Bayaka Pygmies of Yandoumbe village. OKA! might as well be an instrumental film score. Aside from not understanding the language, the structure and musical phrasing of Bayaka are notoriously complicated, and accompanying their indigenous polyrhythms are equally confounding, wail-like yodels and what seems to be a cross between ululating and beat-boxing. Chris Berry takes the helm as music engineer, or as he calls it, "translator of the music," by moulding raw material gathered via field recordings, guiding chorales and adding sonic layers to the Bayaka's communal compositions so as to accentuate the bass, harmonies or simply mood. A thorough reading of the liner notes is necessary for a full appreciation of each song. "Waterdrum" isn't simply a field recording of river water splashing; we are told bathing women produce it "by cupping the hands and pushing down hard on the water, creating air bubbles that the water rushes in to fill, colliding with itself." If Central African music is appealing to you, reading the fine print won't feel like too much of a commitment. For everyone else, before you write it off as music for intellectuals, you might want to watch the film. It'll fill you in on the details, giving the sounds the context they need to be meaningful and truly appreciated. (Oka)