Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 24th, 2011

Who are the Akas pygmies; their songs? Who is Louis Sarno?

Deep in the equatorial Congo forest, live the African pygmies; one of the tribes is the Akas, famous for their melodious songs.

The pygmies number in the 100,000 and dwindling as their neighboring tribes the Bantous or (Bilos as called by the Akas), more numerous and of higher stature, have deforested extensively and have been using guns for killing animals.

For the Bilos, the Akas are no better than slaves and chimpanzees since they don’t live in houses.

Louis Sarno was born in the New Jersey (USA) in 1954, studied literature and loved to listen to Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler,and the classics.

Louis also liked to read Jack Kerouac and Albert Camus, reading shared by his roommate Jim Jarmusch (the director of “Dead Man” (1995) and “Ghost Dog” (1999), both movies were inspired by Sarno experience among the pygmies).

Louis married with a young Netherlands girl and moved to Amsterdam .  The marriage didn’t last. One winter night in 1980, Louis heard songs on the Netherlands radio that hypnotized him, nothing that he ever heard before in his life by his attuned ears.  He said: “A web of polyphonic feminine voices, of refined yodel kinds, a melody that keeps going back and forth without ending.  These exotic harmonies were pure magic and I had to meet these people who produced such songs. It was a chant that attracted me to the heart of Africa”

With $500 and a tape recorder, Sarno purchased in 1985 a one-way ticket to Bangui in Central Africa. Louis said: “In exchange for initiating me to their music, the Akas demanded that I live among them. It was a win deal for me.”

Sarno has been living there for the last 25 years.

A team from the German daily Die Zeit (Hamburg) were impressed by the book “Song from the Forest“, written by Louis Sarno and published in 1990.  This team, headed by Michael Obert, decided to meet with Sarno in the jungle without any warning.  The team landed in Yaounde (Capital of Cameroon), crossed the borders of Central Africa via the river Sangha, and walked to the village of Yandoumbe.

The team was welcomed by pygmies pointing spears at them.  The women with tattooed faces and pointed incisive grab them by their shirts.  Suddenly, the shouts stop and a white man, (two feet taller than the men around him 190 cm), bare chest and bare feet, with elongated and skinny face, arrives carrying two babies in his arms.

The piercing black eyes of Sarno are expressing displeasure.  Then, a six-year old child takes our hands and starts to sing.  Sarno melts and changes to a friendly guy.

We mentioned the book that was the catalyst for their adventure and Sarno replied: “Never mention this book: I didn’t know much of the Akas at the time of writing the book. In New York they made fun of me calling me “The King of the Pygmies

Louis Sarno is already a legend: He recorded 400 hours of the Akas music and songs, survived typhus, hepatitis, and all kinds of equatorial diseases. Inside his rudimentary hut made of branches, you find no television, or phones…

Actually, there is no electricity or running water.  The radio and taping recorder function on batteries.

When asked how people can find their way in this jungle, Louis says: “The forest is an orchestra and the Akas add their solo pieces.  The songs of birds and the sounds of the animals and branches have their special directional orientation.  They can hear the river from long distances. For example, a woman knows that her husband had a good hunt by the birds singing variations”

Louis Sarno married a pygmy girl and has two sons, the elder is Bokumbe (12 year-old) and Yambi (7).

They divorced because Louis never learned to climb trees and bring in the wild honey “Without honey, do not expect honey in return!”  The children wear T-shirt of Harry potter, Tokio Hotel, Vodafone

The Akas name Sarno Looyay because they cannot pronounce Louis. He became their guardian angel since he is in contact with officials in order to preserving the Akas rights. Louis says: “The Akas are my family and the forest is my home”

Recently, Louis’s mother of 83 sent him an e-mail with an plane ticket to visit her.  Sarno is in New York for a short visit in order to record more Akas songs and generate money for the tribe. Louis purchased a Panasonic LS86, a DVD reader for showing the favorite movies of his two sons, Bruce Lee and Fantastic Mister Fox…

Note 1: You may listen to the Akas music such as “Bayaka”: The extraordinary music of the Babenzele pygmies and their Forest Home-a book and CD by Louis Sarno”, or “Central Africa Pygmies Akas: Chants of hunting, love, and mockery-a CD Ocora-Radio (France)”, or “Central Africa: Antology of pygmy music– a CD Ocora-Radio (France)”

Note 2: This story was taken from “Courrier International #1067”

Note 3: The neurosurgeon, Saul Schwarz, MD (E-mail : sent me this request:  “I am one of Louis’ closest friends, through high school and college. We were last together in the mid-1990’s, when he stayed with me in our home in North Carolina. Can you give him my contact info? Greatly appreciated. Denver, CO. USA.

Note 4: Patti Waters sends this message to Louis: “When I was a teenager, my friend Louis and I would create stories where we imagined a different life. I know he indeed has a life that we could not have imagined then. If he would like to contact me I would welcome that. With love and respect.”




April 2011

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