Party in the C.A.R.

Party in the C.A.R.

A month ago, in honor of a Czech researcher’s departure, we had a matanga (party) at Bai Hokou. To host a matanga, you carry out the following steps: you order beer in advance for the occasion (for even bigger matangas you also order palm wine for the trackers, but we only wanted a mild matanga), pull all of the chairs into the middle of camp and wait for the trackers to bring out their instruments.


At the beginning, it was slightly less awkward than a middle school dance as we sat quietly eating in a large circle.

But soon, they start playing their instruments (real or improvised) and the alcohol starts to flow…

And people start to dance! Check out the recording and be prepared to be surprised at how you might want to start shaking your own booty to the sound of clanging empty beer bottles.


It seems like the thing to do at matangas is to dance in a circle, slowly shuffling round and round. It’s quite fun. I might bring it back to the dance floors of Hong Kong.


Then things start to get really heated up. Mobo, shown here in the red shorts, adorned himself with leaves and starting energetically rolling around the floor to the rhythm, making quite the sight.


Meanwhile, Ngombo (first on the left above) decided that a straw tutu would be his costume of choice, and started challenging everyone else one by one to a dance off. He won every single time… according to him, at least.

The festivities ended at around midnight, but more wild matangas often last until the wee hours of morning. It made for a great first weekend in Bai Hokou, and I’m excited for all the matangas to come!


A Ba’Aka Party Under The Full Moon

A Ba’Aka Party (click “play” to hear a recording!)

On the last full moon, we went to Yandoumbe—Louis Sarno’s village—for the dance they were having in honor of several deaths that had occurred. It made me realize how it’s a rare privilege to experience such a “cultural event” (for lack of a better term) that would have happened irrespective of our presence, in its natural state. We were still a bunch of awkward foreigners standing to the side as they danced and sang, but we were guests and they didn’t seem to care about our attendance.

I didn’t want to disturb them, so I didn’t take any photos with flash (and ok, because I forgot to bring my flash). In the middle you can make out a figure that looks vaguely like Cousin It: that is the forest spirit, or Jengi, who comes out on special occasions in the form of man wearing a costume made of straw.

In the photo below, I took a long exposure of the clearing but it was too long to capture any of the people. The audio should be enough to give you an idea of how energetic and lively it was! I highly recommend that you get your hands on some of Louis Sarno’s recordings of their music. I can bring some back to you, but you’d have wait a year or so.