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The Baka Mongolu first music house. Click to enlarge pictures

Mopana fixing the roofWhen Martin was with the Baka in Cameroon at the end of 2002 they built the first music house. The men and women pooled their house-building knowledge to build a giant mongolu where they could rehearse, record and have a good time playing music and dancing.

inside the mongoluThe building was covered with ngongo leaves in the traditional style and it created a large room where music-making could occur undisturbed by outsiders. This was perfect for rehearsing and recording, but not so good for videoing as it is quite dark inside. We built it next to a large tree with butress roots that are used as a bass drum, hitting the buttress with a large log.

Mbeh and the computerOn returning to the forest in February 2003, Martin brought with him his Apple laptop and his Digidesign MBox, that would all run on batteries. Since he was pretty busy with the building of the large music house there was only time for a couple of recording sessions, but it was enough to prove that the technology would work in those conditions. Here is Mbeh helping to set up the equipment.

laying down the guitar trackAs an experiment to see how the Baka musicians coped with multi-track recording, Martin recorded all of them playing percussion, looped part of this on the laptop, and then got Mbeh to play along. Since he only had one set of headphones Pelembir sang along to Mbeh's guitar. Mbeh then played another guitar line to this recording.

Pelembir putting on the vocalsMicrophone stands were too bulky and heavy to carry all the way to the rainforest so we improvised with "home-made" ones. Here is Pelembir singing along to Mbeh's guitar.

Listen to this recording 128kHz mp3

stereo recordingAlthough the multitracking worked fine, the spirit created with everyone playing live together can never be matched. We therefore recorded a few songs in stereo using the laptop, getting much better quality recordings than those made with the minidisc. Next time Martin went in the winter of 2003/4 he took a portable 8 track so that a better balance between the percussion, voices and guitars could be achieved than is possible with the stereo recordings.

gati bongoThe recordings made with the multi-track in 2004 and 2005 resulted in the album "Gati Bongo". This has been voted "Top of the World" by Songlines magazine and has been in the top 30 iTunes World charts for most of the year since its release in April 2006.

Watch video of building the mongolu music house.

Building the Music House part 2.

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