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Song from the Forest: My Life among the Pygmies

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  59 ratings  ·  9 reviews
As a young man, American Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio that gripped his imagination. With some funding from musician Brian Eno, he followed the mysterious sounds all the way to the Central African rain forest and found their source with the Bayaka Pygmies, a tribe of hunters and gatherers. Nothing could have prepared him for life among the Pygmies, a people ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Trinity University Press (first published March 18th 1993)
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Max Carmichael
Jun 29, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A master drummer gave me recordings of Pygmy music about 30 years ago, saying it was the "ultimate music of the world." I concurred - I found it to be far more sophisticated than anything coming out of either Western or Eastern classical traditions, and particularly amazing since it's created by an entire community rather than by a specialist elite.

Sarno comes off as a natural storyteller, and the first half of the book engaged me with evocations of a magical native melange of communal
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
Louis Sarno was listening to the radio one day and heard a polyphonic tune that he had to find out more about it. He found that it was music made by the Pygmies of Central Africa. He went to the Central African Republic without knowing if he would find what he was looking for. He found the Bayaka people, and slowly heard their music. He planned on staying only 3 months to record their music, but he realized that he would never leave. He made trips back to America, but his heart belonged with the ...more
Aug 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Recommended to SuperBanjo by: Rather not say.
This is a trashy "world music" book. Should someone tell you it was written by an ethnomusicologist, it wasn't. If someone tries to explain "this is what ethnomusicology should be," you can be quite confident in knowing that that person does not know what they're talking about. If you want to read about central African pygmy music, there are far, far better books.
Aug 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The exploitative nature of amateur-in-the-field writing is sadly overshadowed by the author's excitement for almost taking a teenage bride; honesty only wins you points when it is not cringe-inducing
John Vanderslice
This is a terrific book. I learned so much. And what an interesting person Louis Sarno was. A musicologist born in New Jersey who went to Africa to record, and hopefully earn recognition for, the songs of Pygmy people but whose life involvement with those people went way way beyond that. The book is a tribute to the wisdom, smarts, and musical genius of the Pygmy. But it's also a warning against deforestation as well as against seeing Africa through a Eurocentric, colonial-based gaze. Most of ...more
Alice Lemon
I will say this for Louis Sarno: he is a wonderful storyteller. However, he's also a creepy person who spends much of the book pining over a teenage girl twenty years younger than him who he has barely talked to, and being upset that despite her "marriage" to him--which it is unclear the actual nature of--she doesn't want to sleep with him. He also seems to have a hard time grasping how awkwardly "white-saviory" his interaction with the people he lives with is.
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
"Now you know our secret. Now you know who we are", 1 November 2015

This review is from: Song from the Forest (Hardcover)
Drawn to visit the pygmies of the Central African Republic after hearing their music - "a densely polyphonic sound...soft yodels...a sense of musical development" - this is the account of Sarno's first encounter with the Ba-Benjelle tribe.
He soon finds life with them very different to his expectations as "they seemed intent only on milking me for all I was worth". The
Emily Steele
I enjoyed the story of a man traveling across the world to find and record indigenous Pygmy music and the view it provided into this hidden world. However, his obsession with his young teen "wife" besides being perverted grows annoying as he talks about her non stop even after she rejects his advances.
Mar 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, anthro-etc
Hearing the music of Pygmies tribes of the Congo, the author goes in search of them and falls in love. Not your usual love story.
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