Video Clips taken by Louis Sarno

Drawn to the rainforests of the Central African Republic by some of the most beautiful singing in the world, New Jersey native Louis Sarno travelled there in 1985 with a one-way ticket, a tape recorder and plenty of batteries. Nearly thirty years later he continues to live with a Bayaka community in and around Yandoumbé, a settlement that he helped found.

Ethnomusicologist Noel Lobley has been in contact with Louis for the last eight years, working through his unprecedented collection of over 1000 hours of recordings that document the full range of music-­making and soundscapes of a single community of hunter gatherers for more than a generation. Louis continues to donate his recordings, images, and videos to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, with the long­term intention that his archive will benefit the Bayaka communities.

Bayaka boyobi music and dance (1)

Bayaka boyobi music and dance (2)

Bayaka children playing geedal

Bayaka net hunting

Bayaka women water drumming


Sound Galleries

Musical torchlit trails at the Pitt Rivers Museum

On Friday November 23rd 2012, the galleries of the Pitt Rivers Museum were plunged into evening darkness and bathed in Bayaka music and sound from the Central African Republic. Visitors were given torches to explore the galleries that were transformed into a rich forest soundscape with sung fables, snatches of laughter, beautiful variations on harps and flutes, and the stunning polyphonic singing of Bayaka women. Hidden surprises included mini projections from the rainforests and a visualiser designed by Nathaniel Mann, the PRM's Embedded Composer in Residence. The evening was filmed By Mike Day of Intrepid Cinema as part of the Reel to Real project, and complemented the Oxford City-wide Christmas Light Night organised by Oxford Inspires. A four hour playlist of Bayaka music from the PRM's sound collections, originally recorded by Louis Sarno, was curated on the evening by Nathaniel Mann and Dr Noel Lobley. The event was streamed online, and was watched live in the Central African Republic by Louis Sarno and some of the Bayaka community.





Copyright 2012 The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford