THE FOREST VOICES TOUR
Feb 26th 2014
In the Rainforest
At the moment there is no rain, only heat and humidity that seem to draw out all your energy and leave you exhausted before the day has even begun. But there is forest and it surrounds us entirely.
Ancient trees tower around the camp each one being slowly suffocated by vines that hang down to the ground and mix up with the other growth. Some of these vines are coco with thick waxy green leaves that form the base of almost all the food we eat. Mixed with peanuts, chilli and, if we’re lucky, a bit of meat from which ever animal was caught that day, they taste delicious and I’m always pleased when it arrives in a small battered cooking pot alongside pounded plantain to be shared with many others.
There's a tree behind Mbeh's house that was set on fire last week and is still burning, possibly waiting for everyone to fall asleep before it too decides to fall. We're at Djamba now, a camp about 5 miles into the forest from Gbiné and a nice 2 hour walk in the shade. It's peaceful here and different from Gbiné. Away from the Bantu and alcohol to lead them astray, people are calm and quiet. Faces that can terrify you in the night now smile gently at you and ask no questions.
At the moment Jonny and I are sharing a small hut made of completely water tight panels of skilfully woven palm leaves. It was kindly lent to us by old Benjoko. He is now sleeping next to us in a newly built structure with his wife and the young child that they look after.
Here people don’t seem to mind too much about huts and houses and at the end of the day when the sun sets, the fire is made bigger and everyone gets their sleeping mats and makes a big pile in the centre of the camp.
Jonny & Clyde with Mbossi, Mofundé, Sangowé (with child) & Monjoko (with basket)
At night time things happen. The women sing yelli, their harsh voices combining to create the most incredible sound. It encompasses you and every time they sing I wake up on my back unable to know when the singing stopped and my dreams began, or if they were one of the same thing.
The instruments are played, and with each one comes a whole new type of music. Ayimbé sings peacefully and delicately plucks his Ieta. Metouli plays it differently - "Radio Afrique in a tenement yard7quot;. Somewhere between a musical master and a mad man, everyone listens when he picks up his instrument and begins to sing.
Nanginga plays the Ngombi Napeké quietly and smiles. Everyone seems to play the guitar and dance.
Nanjinga playing the Ngombi Napeké
There's the sound of machetes being sharpened outside my door and strange voices mumble words I don’t understand, whilst animals and insects shout at each other all around. The spear beside me remains still.
I could be anywhere in the world
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helping people help themselves
reg charity no. 1057668