The Baka are forest dwelling hunter-gatherer people who carry millennia of forest knowledge. They live a peaceful and very musical life in the tropical rainforest of Cameroon and have been respected for thousands of years for their prowess in music, dance and hunting.
For the last 40 years there has been pressure on them to move to roadside villages, supposedly for their own good, as they will be nearer medical facilities and schools. In reality, life in the village means discrimination, exploitation and abuse from the villagers, who regard them as little better than animals. The discrimination gives them little access meaningful education, the exploitation means they have no money for healthcare and the abuse takes away their self-respect.
Visiting people, whether from government or NGOs, always approach the Baka through the village chiefs. The only Baka who will be regularly present in the villages are the old and infirm, alcoholics and Baka who are working for the villagers. The movers and shakers of the community will be elsewhere – off in the forest or working away. The Baka in the village will not be representative, neither will they voice any opinions that they feel that the villagers would not like to hear. Their true voices are never heard. This is what the Forest Voices Tours aim to correct.
Global Music Exchange (GME) have been working with the Baka and promoting their music, dance and culture for 25 years. In that time the Baka music has made it into the top 10 iTunes World Music charts, and more importantly, been shown on Cameroon TV. This has given them a national presence and the all Baka group, Orchéstre Baka Gbiné are now known in all the Baka communities (about 500,000 people).
In March 2014 GME organised the pilot Forest Voices Tour with Baka Gbiné. It was so successful in bringing all the Baka out of the forest to see them that a more extensive tour took place in December 2015. After the concerts films featuring Baka communities were shown. Some showed traditional activities, some were films of Baka discussing their situation, most were in the Baka language. This was the first time many people had seen films, and to see them in Baka was very empowering.
In each community GME invited local Baka People to talk on camera. This was their chance to say whatever they wanted to other Baka, fellow Cameroonians, their Politicians or to the outside world. Many embraced the chance. At last their voices could be heard.
Transport in this part of the world is expensive. It is impossible for the Baka musicians to tour without our help.
Please help GME organise another tour and give the Baka a stronger voice. Empower them to get the future they want.