Congo – Ashumba

music: Ashumba stick sounds


We’re listening to the sounds of an Ashumba ritual, a ceremonial gathering of men which takes place in the rainforest of central Africa. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. John Hart, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, has studied and lived among the Mbuti pygmies for over twenty years. He tells us that in their ashumba ritual, the Mbuti use percussive instruments precisely crafted from local raw materials.

“It was a series of sticks of a certain special hardwood tree of the understory of the forest, each stick of a certain length and diameter so that they produced when struck, each one a different tone. And a chorus of stick handlers, 10 or 12 men and boys with sticks moved around through the forest around the camp, in and out of the forest, beating their sticks in synchrony to produce quite an amazing harmony.”

“There are many reasons for an Ashumba to happen, it could be someone’s dream, it often is, and that dream could be associated with someone long dead or recently dead. The music is not explicitly meant to mimic the forest, but rather the harmony itself is what the forest is all about. That’s I think, the secret to the Mbuti’s real appreciation of themselves and their relationship to their environment. The harmony that the forest brings them is a harmony that they can express in music.”

To hear some of your favorite Pulse of the Planet stories again online, please visit nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Congo - Ashumba

When the Mbuti pygmies hold a ceremony called an Ashumba, it's as if the trees are making music.
Air Date:10/20/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

music: Ashumba stick sounds


We're listening to the sounds of an Ashumba ritual, a ceremonial gathering of men which takes place in the rainforest of central Africa. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. John Hart, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, has studied and lived among the Mbuti pygmies for over twenty years. He tells us that in their ashumba ritual, the Mbuti use percussive instruments precisely crafted from local raw materials.

"It was a series of sticks of a certain special hardwood tree of the understory of the forest, each stick of a certain length and diameter so that they produced when struck, each one a different tone. And a chorus of stick handlers, 10 or 12 men and boys with sticks moved around through the forest around the camp, in and out of the forest, beating their sticks in synchrony to produce quite an amazing harmony."

"There are many reasons for an Ashumba to happen, it could be someone's dream, it often is, and that dream could be associated with someone long dead or recently dead. The music is not explicitly meant to mimic the forest, but rather the harmony itself is what the forest is all about. That's I think, the secret to the Mbuti's real appreciation of themselves and their relationship to their environment. The harmony that the forest brings them is a harmony that they can express in music."

To hear some of your favorite Pulse of the Planet stories again online, please visit nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.