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date: 19 October 2019

Pygmy musiclocked

  • Peter Cooke
  • , revised by Michelle Kisliuk


The term ‘Pygmy’ has been used by anthropologists (and more generally by speakers of European languages) to denote the indigenous hunter-gatherers of the Central African rainforest. However it is a problematic term in that it has often been used in a derogatory sense which reflects the socially oppressive circumstances under which some forest people still live. These people often refer to themselves in their own languages as ‘forest people’ or ‘children of the forest’. They include the Baka of Cameroon, the Ba(Aka) of the Central African Republic and the Republic of the Congo, the Ba(Ngombe) of the Republic of the Congo, the Ba(Mbuti) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the (Ba)Gyeli of Gabon, and several sub-groups and peripheral groups, such as those referred to as ‘Pygmoids’ living in Rwanda and Burundi. They number in all about 170,000 (though census data collection among Pygmies is obviously difficult to conduct and more difficult to verify). Musical styles and lifestyles among these groups vary across regions and change over time. African Pygmies have traditionally lived in semi-nomadic hunting camps, exchanging forest goods with neighbouring farmers in patron-client relationships, and sometimes working on their neighbours' farms. Pygmies across equatorial Africa are increasingly farming their own plots in the forest, which in some ways allows them more independence....

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