Song From The Forest

18/04/17The Story Of Louis Sarno: Preserving The Musical Traditions Of The Bayaka

Sad news reached us last week, as an obituary page in the New York Times informed us of Louis Sarno's passing. Aged 62, the New Jersey-born Sarno had devoted himself to studying and most importantly preserving the music of the Bayaka, a pygmy tribe in the Central African Republic. Sarno spent nearly half of his life with the tribe, fully immersing himself in their culture, their language and most notably their music, which is what drew him there in the first place. He first heard the Bayaka's "mesmerizing melodies" on the radio, while studying in Amsterdam in the early 1980s and almost instantly set out to find out more about them. His journey finally led him to the village of Yandoumbe in the Dzanga-Sangha Forest Reserve, where he found the music that had first spellbound him and pressed record.

"I was drawn to the heart of Africa by a song," Mr. Sarno later recalled. "I boarded a plane that would take me into the equatorial heart of a continent where I did not know a soul, on a quest for a music that might have been nothing more than a state of my imagination." (NY Times)

Released in 2013 the German documentary "Song from the Forest" by Michael Obert visits Sarno in his forest home and accompanies him on a trip to New York City with his adopted pygmy son Samedi. Sarno's life story is fascinating, inspiring and deeply moving. The film not only documents his life with the Bayaka, but also shows Sarno in his role as a dedicated ethnomusicologist (over the decades Sarno has recorded more than 1,500 hours of unique Bayaka music), loving father and tireless activist. We were touched by his life story as well as the news of Louis Sarno's passing and tip our hats to this man, who took the road less traveled.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom