For the past seventeen years Su Hart and Martin Cradick have been quietly and assiduously building a collection of recordings based around the Baka tribes of the Cameroonian rainforest.
Albums such as Beyond the Forest could probably only have been made through this kind of long-term approach, with the husband-and-wife team from the UK gradually getting to know the Baka people to the point that the Cameroonian forest dwellers are willing to see their indigenous music bent and shaped in these sonically inventive ways. The subject this time is a handful of Baka women who sing ritual “yelli” yodelling songs, which were field-recorded on 8-track tapes then manipulated in the UK. The result: a musical collage of Baka Beyondisms and traditional fare. Instruments such as the ndong (single string bamboo flute), iloung (thumb piano) and ngombi (harp lute) mix with guitar, flute, bass, echoed keyboards effects around the lush, rough harmonies of the Baka women. Deep, undulating yodels, almost ghostly at times, interweave around a subtle, almost reggae-lite, grooves with the trademark Baka Beyond admixture of Gaelic folk (Su sings on a couple of tracks, and Uillean pipes make their melodic mark). Think Raincoats when they discovered world music, with a dash of Celtic soul for good measure – occasionally a bit too New Agey perhaps, but on the whole engaging stuff.
Baka Beyond are touring this fascinating fusion in May, and are rather admirably also releasing the unadorned yelli recordings around the same time.
Meantime, as ever proceeds will go towards the collective’s Baka preservation charity. A good cause supported by some good music.