Having purchased and started reading The Voice of the Leopard, I got desirous of hearing the music of Calabar. I realized that Cameroun music of certain ethnic groups would be pretty much the same, separated only by the international border.
Right now I’m listening to Danses et Chants Bamoun (OCORA SOR 3).
Side 2, cut 2 is without embellishment but very powerful. It is titled Musique Pour La Pendaison D’Un Ministre – music for the hanging of a minister.
It reminds me of the powerful call to meeting on Laura Bolton’s album recorded in the late 40s. This album was recorded in 1957.
“La Pendaison” music is so melodic I thought it might have a plucked string instrument in it, but the general liner notes indicate only 3 iron bells and 2 drums. The bells no doubt provide the melodic quality. The notes to the piece itself are worth quoting in my off-the-cuff translation:
“This piece is gripping, not only for the sobriety of the instrumentation and the lugubrious rhythm, but for a text sung in a hoarse voice: ’This music never speaks without a profound reason. Whoever hears it anxiously asks himself: is this for me, is it for my neighbor. There, it bespeaks danger. An abyss behind, an abyss in front. It is a friendless music. Good only when heard from a distance going away, mortal when is approaches.’”
I don’t know who the writer is quoting.
Miller relates the music and the Leopard societies of this region to the Abakua traditions of Cuba.