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Song from the Forest: My Life among the Ba-Benjelle Pygmies

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Obsessed by the music of the Pygmies, in the mid-1980s New Jerseyan Sarno ventured to the Central African Republic to live among a Pygmy clan and record its music. His engaging, detailed chronicle is full of wonder, beauty and irony, though it can also frustrate. Sarno's initial naivete soon crumbles; the Pygmies are interested in him only as a supplier of food, liquor and tobacco. But during his three-month visit he gradually grows closer to them, taping their music, observing their rituals and exploring the forest. He returns two years later to become more deeply involved in the society, eventually becoming ``a sort of village scribe.'' However, Sarno--who now has settled among the Pygmies--falls in love with a young tribeswoman without ever speaking to her. His account of his infatuation, their cat-and-mouse courtship and their ``so-called marriage'' is exasperating because he has not revealed enough of himself to make his passionate attachment to the Pygmies comprehensible. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Sarno never gave any thought to the Pygmies of Africa until one night in Europe when he heard some of their haunting music on the radio. Entranced, he decided to seek them out and record their songs. The journey took him to the village of Bomandjombo in the Central African Republic, where he took up residence with a nearby Pygmy group. Over the next several years, he became a fixture in their lives, recording their music, supplying them with tobacco and machetes, taking part in hunts, and even becoming involved in an emotionally turbulent, unconsummated marriage to a Pygmy woman. Sarno admits that this very personal account lacks the sensibility of a trained anthropologist. Yet the naivete with which he approached an alien culture led him to experience the Pygmies' lives in a way that anthropologists seldom do. More travel literature than anthropology, this book would be at home in many large public library collections.-- Eric Hinsdale, Trinity Univ. Lib., San Antonio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140236606
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/16/1994
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Ainsi Donc la Vie 1
2 Ba-Benjelle or Bust 13
3 Heart in the Forest 39
4 Dzanga-Sangha Days 79
5 Ngbali 109
6 The Bees of Mombongo 145
7 Villagers 177
8 Lost Dreams at Sao-sao 203
9 Ejengi 221
10 The Cry of the Mokoondi 247
11 Yondumbe 281
Appendix 1 The Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve 293
Appendix 2 Discography of Pygmy Music 295
Acknowledgments 299
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