THE FOREST VOICES TOUR
diary

March 18th 2014, Nomedjo

Through a mixup due to a mixture of certain people's over-riding desire for a "proper" breakfast and the bus driver's reluctance to drive even a few kilometres further than he had planned (saving on diesel) we ended up leaving Mintom quite early in the day. The result was that we arrived mid-morning to the next destination, Nomendjo. Innocent, the pan-pipe-playing Rasta who plays music with some Baka musicians from Nomedjo, welcomed us to his home.

One of the first people we met in the village caused a bit of a stir. It turned out that he was from Banana, but had left as a teenager more than 20 years earlier. Pelembir was quite overwhelmed saying "we thought you had died, I even gave money for your funeral".

It was very interesting to find that even though the Baka language spoken here is a bit different (Dondolo, who had been working as a translator for us told us he wasn't confident to translate the people here correctly) many of the clan names are the same. baka from Banana met Baka from Lomié region with the same clan name and treated each other as long-lost relatives.

It was hard finding much food in Nomedjo, but drink was readily available. Since we had arrived so early and weren't going to perform until late afternoon it was hard keeping track of everyone. Different small groups had gone off with people we had met. The locals, who didn't have Baka visitors arrive en mass very often (if ever) were all keen to entertain them, and this did cause some problems as jealousies arose, fuelled by drink. We resolved to make sure in future that we would arrive in villages with enough time to set up and perform, then socialise the next day once everyone knew us. Too much time before we needed to work in a village where we knew no one was not the best way of doing it.

In the afternoon we could sense that some trouble was brewing. We heard shouting from up the road which was getting louder and more and more people were gathering. Suddenly a large man came running past us and straight into Innocent's house where we had just been resting. He was followed by a Baka covered in blood and welding a machete which he hurled at the other as he entered the house. Other shouting people followed. I entered the house, half expecting to see a body lying on the floor, but there was the very upset Baka brandishing a machete. The other man had locked himself in an adjoining room. The Baka with the machete had a nasty cut across one eye with plenty of blood running down his face. he didn't want the other to get away with it. I didn't want to see a bloody murder and started calmly talking to him and asking him to give me the machete. Eventually he saw the pointlessness of more violence and handed it to me.

It turned out that it was a common story. The Bantu farmer had got the Baka to do some work for him, but had not payed what he had promised (or what the Baka had understood that he was to receive). After many times of asking for the money it was too much for the Baka and a big argument had occurred (with half the village becoming involved). The Baka had been hit by the Bantu and now was trying to get him back.

The musicians were all for leaving the village there and then, but I pointed out that the village needed them now more than at any other time. They, as musicians, had the unique ability to turn round the hostile atmosphere into a positive fun atmosphere by playing music. Happily, once we had got the generator working, this turned out to be the case.

In reflection we saw that with minimal funding for some sound equipment and use of a village hall so much trouble in these villages could be stopped by encouraging some regular entertainment. There is nothing to do here except drink, and then even fighting is more interesting than sitting doing nothing.

Martin


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